How worried should we be about the new COVID wave?

STORY: COVID is on the rise again across America.

Davis: "Over the past few weeks, we've definitely seen an uptick in the numbers of COVID."

New York saw a jump in weekly cases - up to 750 in August, compared to 250 the month before.

It comes as health agencies try to keep track of a new, highly mutated lineage of the virus that causes COVID-19.

So - should you be worried?

One new variant of the disease that's raised concern among health professionals is called BA.2.86.

So far there have only been a handful of cases.

And in short - experts say it's too soon to know whether it'll cause more severe illness.

Reuters spoke with Denis Nash, professor of epidemiology at City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health:

"While we don't know all the details yet, what we do know does raise the possibility that this new variant (BA.2.86) could potentially evade current immunity to increase transmission, for example, and it could also potentially be of higher severity than variants that we've seen lately."

The Centers for Disease Control has said that the new variant could be more capable than older variants -

in causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received vaccines.

In recent months, more cases have been attributed to Eris,

a descendant of the Omicron lineage that originally emerged in November 2021.

But doctors say patients with Eris aren't as sick as those they treated during the early days of COVID-19.

Dr. Frederick Davis is the associate chair of the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Hospital:

“They'll come in with body aches, maybe some fevers, and many times we're seeing patients that didn't even know they might have had some congestion and came in for totally unrelated symptoms and are found to have COVID."

According to data on the CDC website,

U.S. emergency department visits and hospitalizations for COVID remain low...

But have been rising since early July.

Nash: "We are watching very closely what's happening. We do expect that there will be likely an even larger surge in community transmission as we move into the fall. The weather gets colder. Kids are going back to school. And so we are looking at this closely with concern."

The CDC said its advice on protecting yourself from COVID remains the same.

Doctors continue to suggest that vaccines are the best protection against the new variants -

especially if it's been a while since you were last vaccinated.

But - the most effective new vaccines aren't yet available.

Nash: "It will become available in the fall. I think that governments should be doing everything they can to accelerate that timeline and get people vaccinated who are not yet up to date on their vaccines."