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Erie County could be facing another summer surge of COVID-19, as the number of reported cases doubled in the last week of June after remaining stable for months, according to the Erie County Health Department.

The good news is that while more patients are testing positive for the virus, Erie-area doctors say few of them are sick enough to require hospitalization.

“The patients I see who call the office with COVID are suffering from headaches, stuffy sinuses and some cough,” said Dr. Ed Ellis, a family physician at Saint Vincent Family Medicine Center, 311 W. 24th St. “It’s become an upper respiratory illness, although I’ve seen a few with shortness of breath.”

“Most of them tell me afterward that they had a positive home test, or they call to report a positive home test,” said Dr. Kylie Morris, a family physician with the West Erie Medical Group of UPMC Hamot, 1600 Peninsula Drive. “The age groups are a little higher, but they’re all the same.”

Since the pandemic began in 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased to varying degrees each summer. The increases are not as large as in late fall and winter, and the recent summer increases are not as severe as in 2020 and 2021.

During the week ending June 30, 61 cases were reported in the county, compared to 30 cases the previous week. According to the county health department, this was the first time since early March that 60 or more cases were reported in a single week.

Medical and health officials attribute the rise in cases to the virus evolving as the likelihood that people are fully protected by previous vaccinations and infections decreases.

“Globally, the KP.2 variant is still predominant, although the KP.3 variant is slowly circulating in our area,” said Colleen Wallace, RN, deputy director of community health services for the county health department. “We are not seeing an increase in severe disease with these variants, as most people only have mild symptoms.”

New COVID-19 vaccine expected this summer

Current COVID-19 vaccines were based on variants that are no longer in circulation, but a U.S. Food & Drug Administration advisory panel in June recommended that vaccine makers focus on the JN.1 lineage of SARS-CoV-2, including the KP.2 subvariant.

More: CDC panel: Updated COVID vaccines and flu shots recommended for fall

The updated COVID-19 vaccine is expected in August or September, USA Today reported. Ellis still recommended the current COVID-19 vaccine for people who are not yet up to date.

“It still offers some protection and you never know exactly what to expect,” Ellis said.

Continue to take precautions if you feel sick and go out in public

Wallace added that people should continue to take precautions if they are not feeling well, especially when they are around people who are at risk for COVID-19 complications, such as people age 75 and older and people with lung disease.

“Be aware of how you are feeling,” Wallace said. “Consider wearing a mask in public if you are coughing or have a stuffy nose, and avoid visiting someone in a care facility if you are not feeling well.”

Contact David Bruce at [email protected]. Follow him on X @ETNBruce.