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There may be an increase in COVID cases this summer. Experts say this is why you shouldnt be concerned

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(NEW YORK) — As the United States heads into the summer season, early indicators show the country is likely to experience an increase in COVID-19 infections.

For the week ending June 8, the latest date for which data is available, COVID test positivity was 5.4% across the U.S., an increase of 0.8% from the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the Western region — which is comprised of Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada — COVID test positivity was 12.8%, higher than any other region of the U.S. The New England region — made up of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — had the next highest test positivity rate at 5.4%, matching the national rate.

Wastewater data from the CDC shows that although viral activity levels are still low nationally, levels have more than doubled in the western U.S. over the last month.

Additionally, COVID emergency department visits for the week ending June 8 rose 12.6% from the week prior, according to CDC data.

Traditionally, the U.S. has seen increases in COVID every summer, typically after the Fourth of July, but public health experts said Americans will likely see a “drift upwards” rather than a surge.

“To put it proportionally to like where we were in many winters, we are at a very, very low rate of COVID, compared to some of our peaks,” Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at Duke University, told ABC News. “Like compared to early 2022, for example, when omicron first emerged, this is night and day different. But … there’s just this little drift upwards, perhaps in the last few weeks.”

Increases have been seen in several states, most notably on the West Coast. In Los Angeles, the county’s Department of Public Health reported an average of 121 cases on June 13, up from a daily average of 106 instances one week prior.

However, experts said a combination of us learning how to better manage the virus and having high levels of immunity means COVID will not be a major threat to the average person.

“Our bodies have learned how to manage the virus over the last four years, meaning that many people have had successive waves of infection, many people have had initial vaccinations,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told ABC News. “So that combined immunity gives a big force field that can help protect us during the summer. … Although most people will be fine, there are still some people that are going to get very sick.”

As of Tuesday, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. remain stable. For the week ending May 18, the last week of complete data, there were 311 deaths due to COVID, which is the lowest death figure recorded in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.

Chin-Hong said most hospitalizations and deaths are occurring among high-risk groups, including elderly individuals aged 75 and older and people who are immunocompromised, such as those who have undergone organ transplants or are on medications that suppress the immune system.

He recommends the average person track COVID wastewater data from the CDC to see if it’s trending upwards in their area and to keep masks and COVID rapid tests handy in case they need them, but he added that an increase in COVID should not be cause for fear.

“I think there’s a fine balance between ignoring everything and being scared by everything,” Chin-Hong said. “It’s like when you’re crossing the street. You never just run across a busy road; you always look both ways, but it doesn’t mean you don’t go to the next destination. So, I think in the new… phase of COVID, that’s the way we should think about it.”

Similarly, Wolfe said people should assess their individual risk and take more precautions if they will be around high-risk individuals such as senior citizens or sick patients. He also recommended getting the newest updated COVID vaccine that will likely be rolled out in late September.

“Very much in the same way that flu vaccines are tailored each year to adapt to the strains that we see, the same is occurring with COVID,” Wolfe said. “And I think for someone who might be themselves or someone in their family or close contact known to be high risk I’m going to be still actively encouraging those people to get vaccinated.”

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