Scientists see few signs of a big COVID-19 wave this winter. But you just never know.

A woman walked in Boston with a mask last year when COVID rates spiked upward.STAN GROSSFELD/GLOBE STAFF

In his darker moments, Dr. Jeremy Luban wonders: Could it happen again? Could a radically new version of COVID-19 suddenly emerge?

The situation this fall is “eerily” similar to a year ago, said Luban, professor of molecular medicine, biochemistry, and molecular biotechnology at the UMass Chan Medical School. Back then, the Delta variant carried the day, just as Omicron subvariants dominate today. Then as now, no one expected a big change.

But instead of a smooth Delta winter, the world woke up last Thanksgiving morning to find a new monster among us, the ultra-transmissible Omicron. With more than 50 new mutations, some of which enabled the virus to evade immunity, the variant immediately barreled across the globe.

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