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Opinion: The Resurgence of COVID-19 and the Rise of the Eris Variant

We Need More Than Just Precautions

The late-summer surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is disheartening for the U.S. After months of declining numbers, we find ourselves faced with the rapid spread of a new variant, Eris (EG.5). According to the CDC, Eris now accounts for 20.6% of COVID infections, with another strain, FL.1.5.1, at 13.3%.

This resurgence underscores that the virus continues to circulate and evolve. As the World Health Organization's aptly noted, "it continues to change."

We are far from the finish line in our fight against this virus. The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on Black communities, so we must advocate for targeted measures to protect the most vulnerable among us.

We are told that the same precautions we relied on during the pandemic – frequent handwashing, wearing masks, and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – still work. However, these are not enough. People at higher risk of complications, such as those with compromised immune systems, are advised to consider reinstating some precautions. But this is just the bare minimum. We must also demand equitable access to healthcare for the most vulnerable communities.

Eris has been detected in 51 countries, and its global prevalence is rising. It is believed that this subvariant has a growth advantage over its predecessors, but thankfully, it doesn't seem to make people sicker than its sibling strains. While we cannot say with certainty that Eris is behind the bump in U.S. cases, we cannot ignore the possibility.

A professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said, "there's a reasonable likelihood that the slight increase that we're seeing in COVID activity is very possibly related to the coincidental finding of a new variant that is starting to become the predominant one."

We must confront this latest surge with a comprehensive approach. We need equitable access to healthcare and targeted measures for vulnerable communities, and a commitment to breaking the cycle of systemic inequalities that have made this pandemic so devastating for Black Americans. Only then can we truly hope to defeat this.

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