The article Why Everyone Has the Worst Summer Cold Ever by the New York Times suggests that there is some expectation of a bad cold season.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that cases of common respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human parainfluenza viruses, which cause typical cold and flu symptoms, are on the rise this summer. The spike in RSV, which can be especially risky to the very young and very old, is particularly unusual for this time of year, said a representative of the CDC, which released a report late in June about the pandemic's effect on a variety of respiratory viruses. The surge in RSV was most notable in several southern states, but the virus has begun to crop up all over the country. Its spread has been tracked primarily in young children, some of whom have been hospitalized with severe symptoms.
The RSV surge, which has been seen in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as well, is likely the result of pandemic lockdowns, which created a much larger population of susceptible young children. A cohort of babies, now toddlers, were largely protected from the virus when few of us were out and about. Since then, a new group of infants has been born — giving the virus the opportunity to infect roughly twice as many vulnerable children and creating more vectors to spread it to older children and adults, who typically have milder symptoms. [...]
While doctors might test young children to confirm a case of RSV, and many people who have cold symptoms will be tested to rule out covid-19, most people probably will not know the specific respiratory virus causing their symptoms, said Dr. Kathryn M. Edwards, professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Given how infectious COVID is, the more parsimonious explanation for the supposed rise in colds is that vaccinated people get milder COVID and the sensitivity of COVID testing is low. Furthermore, I do not believe that it is common practice to confirm a suspected common cold with PCR. It seems possible to me that the default diagnosis for a mild breakthrough COVID case with a negative lab is the common cold, despite COVID potentially being more likely.
In particular, according to The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS), RSV cases seem to be approaching 2019 levels, with perhaps no indication of falling off. These data are adequately explained (both the absolute number of detected cases, and the test positivity rate) by massively increased testing of all respiratory conditions and also the conditioning of RSV tests upon negative Covid/flu tests. This convolution already makes it impossible to compare the humps of this graph reliably, but the complete lack of demographic data and hospitalizations makes it impossible to speculate about how the conditional testing might affect outcomes. Furthermore, the primary cause of the spread of RSV is school being open, which is not yet the case in the majority of the US, and certainly hasn't been the case for long enough to matter. I'm open to being wrong about this, but it seems to me that the data necessary to discriminate between a disproprotionate and seasonally misaligned RSV outbreak and the aforementioned explanation is completely missing. Furthermore, as part of their softer journalism, the author has this to say:
Months of pandemic restrictions aimed at Covid-19 had the unintended but welcome effect of stopping flu, cold and other viruses from spreading. But now that masks are off and social gatherings, hugs and handshakes are back, the run-of-the-mill viruses that cause drippy noses, stuffy heads, coughs and sneezes have also returned with a vengeance.
“It was a bad chest cold — chest congestion, a rattling cough,” said Laura Wehrman, 52, a wardrobe supervisor for film and television, who caught a weeklong bug after flying to New York from Austin in late June to visit friends. Although she’s fully vaccinated against Covid-19, she took multiple tests to be sure she wasn’t infected. Eventually a doctor confirmed it was a rhinovirus, a common cold virus. She said several of her other friends also have been sick with colds and coughs as well.
“I was staying with one of my best friends, and it got tense for a minute because she had started a new job, and she didn’t want to be sick,” said Ms. Wehrman. “I actually went and checked into a hotel for the last two days so I could just cough away by myself.”
Infectious disease experts say there are a number of factors fueling this hot, sneezy summer. While pandemic lockdowns protected many people from Covid-19, our immune systems missed the daily workout of being exposed to a multitude of microbes back when we commuted on subways, spent time at the office, gathered with friends and sent children to day care and school.
Note the use of the past tense, and the implication that the subject's friends who have respiratory symptoms possess similar evidence that they do not have covid, despite very clearly being speculation.