LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – There’s a familiar predator on the hunt: COVID-19. The virus is back with a vengeance, new cases are climbing in parts of the country. In turn, that’s leading to a demand for more testing, sick days and critical care hospital beds.

Sparrow Laboratories are busy with COVID testing again. But to get one, a physician has to order it, complicating access to the test which until earlier this year didn’t require a doctor’s order. “They could just drive through one of our drive-thrus, we would provide the screening and the order and they were out the door,” says Jon Baker, director of laboratories at Sparrow Health System. “People remember doing that and maybe haven’t had the need to do that till recently.”

Baker says while testing is on the increase, it’s difficult to know if a full-fledged outbreak is on the horizon. 

COVID has reshaped the contours of viral outbreak prediction, and its multiple circulating variants also play a role in complicating the forecast.  “So, we are not able to make those predictions,” says Baker. “We just prepare for all the different contingencies. We could have a busy season, or it could be less busy.” 

Michigan State University’s top physician Dr. Michael Brown agrees. “We can’t anticipate what will unfold since each variant is different and there could be some on the horizon for this fall that we are not aware of yet,” he says.      

In preparation for a potential increase in COVID cases, the White House Wednesday announced it will spend more than $600 million dollars to get at-home testing back on the menu. Americans will be able to order tests to be delivered to their homes.  

While easy access to testing will help patients, Brown says at-home testing complicates monitoring the virus. That isn’t stopping him from cheerleading the White House announcement.  

“People became accustomed to that convenience and I think it encourages people to test themselves,” Brown tells 6 News, “if they are feeling ill or have been exposed in a big group.” 

Brown says some parts of the state are already clocking an increase in cases. 

A booster for COVID is expected to be available in the coming weeks, just as medical officials are concerned about increased hospitalizations and several new variants of the virus.