U.S. Faces Hurdle to Lock Down Again if COVID Cases Surge

The United States could be facing a hard road ahead should another surge of COVID-19 cases once again require the implementation of antivirus protocols, some experts believe.

With the uptick in cases spurred by the highly-transmissible Omicron subvarient known as BA.2, some are worried that the U.S. is heading towards another season of COVID-19 precautions as many states have rolled back all mandates and protocols in recent weeks.

But should hospitalizations and deaths begin to take an upward trend once again, experts say that bringing back the recently removed mask and isolation mandates won't do enough to prevent another surge.

"Vaccination is the way to solve this problem, not masks and isolation. That just didn't really do as much as we would have liked," said Dr. Daniel Havlichek, an infectious disease specialist at Michigan State University.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there was an increase," Havlichek told Newsweek, adding that he felt the country would likely handle COVID differently than at the start of the pandemic. "We're not going to approach this problem the same way the next time, because so many people have been vaccinated, and cases are just colds. We need to measure the impact on society with hospitalizations and deaths, not necessarily with cases."

According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, over 217 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, accounting for approximately 66 percent of the U.S. population. Additionally, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that hospitalizations and deaths have been on the decline in recent weeks.

Even if the country was to require lockdowns again, experts say that in some places in the U.S., it would be "impossible."

"Most of the United States has 'COVID fatigue' and they kind of want some real reason to go through all of this again," Havlichek said. "It's going to be a state-by-state kind of a thing. Obviously, some states have been opposed to this all along, so for some, it will be virtually impossible."

That mood had been set in the U.S. last year, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said in December that he believed it would be "very, very difficult" to shut down given the "mood of the country."

The same thoughts were echoed by William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Schaffner told Newsweek that reinstituting protocols "would be extremely difficult. People would be very skeptical, very reluctant, and quite vocal about it."

"I anticipate realistically that we are going to have a new normal summer, there may well be a lot of Omicron and BA.2 variant spreading, but perhaps causing an awful lot of mild illness," Schaffner said.

He mentioned that as COVID-19 has begun to ease up in the U.S., Congress has taken steps to decrease funding that goes to public health, which could play a vital role should the U.S. see another surge in the future.

"I think that is very premature," Schaffner told Newsweek. "We all have been surprised at what COVID has done in the past, and I don't think our confidence is complete. Public health needs to continue to be prepared and be able to respond if COVID becomes more aggressive again, for one reason or another."

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The U.S. could face significant hurdles should a COVID-19 surge take place again, some experts say. In this photo, people check-in for their COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic offering vaccines and booster shots in Rosemead, California on November 29, 2021. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images