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Expert warns new COVID variants could fuel deadlier spring surge

COVID-19 cases are trending down nationwide, but the UK variant is expected to change that and become the dominant variant by March.

HOUSTON — COVID-19 numbers are trending in the right direction, but experts fear a spring surge could be weeks away and it could be deadlier than what we saw this winter.

New COVID-19 cases are dropping while vaccinations are rising. It's the latest signs the COVID winter surge is finally letting up. 

"I'm worried this is going to be short-lived, and we're going to see this big up tick again," said Dr. Peter Hotez. 

The threat of a spring surge being fueled by concerning new COVID variants making their way across the country. The CDC has detected 699 cases across 34 states including Texas. Six-hundred ninety of those are the far more transmissible UK variant. 

"The UK variant is the one moving the fastest now and accelerating, doubling every 10 days," said Hotez.

It could be the dominant strain in the U.S. by March. 

"I'm comparing this to being in the eye of the hurricane, the next big hit is about to come and we need to get ready for that."

The good news is current vaccines appear to be work well against the UK variant so how many people we're able to vaccinate over the next few weeks will shape how big a surge there ultimately is. 

"The hard part will be how we get through March, April and May," said Hotez. "It's going to be a challenging time for the country."

If the variants take hold, models suggest the U.S. could hit more than 680,000 deaths by June 1st. Now more than ever is the time to continue masking up and socially distance. 

"I know people are exhausted and really tired of this," said Hotez. "I thought we were going to get out of this now, I thought we had turned a corner on this, but with these variants here that unfortunately is the reality."

Experts say it's critical to test for these variants more quickly and more often to get a better grasp of when exactly the next surge could arrive.