How Much Should We Still Be Afraid of COVID-19?

Jennifer R. Povey
6 min readOct 12, 2023
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

It’s 2023. It’s late 2023. Should we still be terrified of COVID-19? I’m hearing some people say yes, many say no.

The truth is we probably shouldn’t be terrified of COVID-19. Unless you are immunocompromised or a family member is, in which case it should be one of a host of worries.

At the same time, we shouldn’t be forgetting this still somewhat nasty virus exists.

So, what is the current state of COVID-19?

Summer Surge Waning, but Winter Is Coming

COVID-19 once more produce a summer surge, albeit much smaller than some of the surges in the past.

Tellingly, it did not produce extremely high levels of hospitalizations and deaths. However, it’s worth considering the timing. Most respiratory viruses do not surge in the summer.

The timing of this surge was marked by two things:
1. The start of the school year.

2. A heatwave.

COVID appears to be more influence by our behavior than it is by reduced temperatures. So far, anyway. When people come indoors more, there is more COVID. Flu doesn’t do this. But perhaps other human coronaviruses do and we don’t have the surveillance to assess whether colds in the summer are more often caused by coronaviruses than, say, rhinoviruses.

But. Again, the hospitalization rate is down. Most hospitalizations are still among people aged 65 or older. Of the people being hospitalized, nearly all had at least one underlying condition and over 85% had two or more. The people being hospitalized typically have diabetes, kidney problems, coronary artery disease, chronic heart failure, and/or obesity. (It’s possible that the high rate of two or more is because the other conditions are often associated with obesity). Of the CDC’s sample of hospitalized people, only 5.9% had to be put on a ventilator and 4.8% died. This is much lower than earlier in the pandemic but does highlight that older people with underlying conditions can still die from this virus. About 16% were unvaccinated. The majority had not taken the bivalent booster, for which takeup was very poor.

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Jennifer R. Povey

I write about fantasy, science fiction and horror, LGBT issues, travel, and social issues.