Colds and flu spoil our winters. COVID isn’t picky — but that could change

Colds and flu are classics for ruining our fall and winter celebrations — Thanksgiving gatherings, Hanukkah festivities, Christmas craft fairs, New Year’s Eve celebrations.

COVID-19 is hardly respected.

It’s an equal-opportunity threat, at best, and the killer, at worst, has yet to settle into a seasonal pattern — and may never quite happen.

COVID infections in the US and elsewhere have peaked in every season, including summer. So “we’ve never had any real breaks from COVID-19,” Dr. Mark Siedneran infectious disease specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School Luck.

The emergence of new, more infectious variants prevented the virus from settling in a more traditional seasonal pattern, Dr. Morgan Katzan infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center said Luck.

She pointed out that this new virus has led to quarantines and closures over the past two and a half years, disrupting normal operations and even disrupting the seasonality of viruses such as influenza and viruses. RSV, as individuals limit gatherings, work and go to school remotely, she points out.

Both Siedner and Katz agree that COVID will likely become a seasonal virus, worse in the fall and winter.

But “it can take a few years to settle in,” Katz said.

Seasonal trends may already be present in the works. Siedner points out that the country’s worst peak occurred when Hurricane Omicron hit in December 2020 through January 2021, with spring and summer waves tending to be smaller. This summer’s BA.5 wave is exceptional, with near-record COVID levels in at least some communities, according to wastewater levels.

A constant cycle of new mutations that become more and more avoidable and contagious has caused COVID to “never really go away,” Siedner said.

He added: “It’s very contagious, and unless immunity protects us better than it does now, this cycle is likely to continue.

“We’re all hoping this won’t be the future forever.”

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