Weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations, a key indicator of the virus, have gone up by over 10 percent across the U.S., according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the biggest percent increase since December.
According to the CDC, more than 7,100 individuals were diagnosed and admitted to the hospital for COVID for the week of July 15, which is an increase from 6,400 during the previous week. The number of emergency visits with COVID-19, another important hospital metric, has also been trending upward in recent weeks, from 0.49% in June to 0.73% in July.
The new numbers come after months of slowing trends since the last winter wave.
Kathleen Conley, a spokesperson for the CDC, later said in a statement that COVID-19 cases are still near historic lows after more than six months of steady declines. However, early indicators of viral activity (wastewater levels, ER visits) have preceded an increase this past week.
Only one part of the U.S. did not record higher hospitalizations last week compared to the previous week- the Midwestern region spanning Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Still, hospitalization numbers are much lower than what they were at this time last year. In July 2022, there were more than 44,000 weekly hospitalizations and 5 percent of ER visits had covid.
So far, projections have differed as to what the situation will be like in the coming months. However, a number of federal and academic modelers have said that COVID-19 activity will surge in late fall and early winter for the next two years, with the highest numbers between November and January.
New Vaccines and Variants
Unlike the previous wave during the winter, no single variant has emerged this summer. Rather, the CDC estimates that a mix of XBB variant descendants is responsible for the infections currently seen across the country. Some of the major subvariants include XBB 1.9.1, XBB 1.1.16, XBB 1.6., XBB 2.3. and EG.5.
The CDC also announced earlier this month that updated vaccines will be available by late September. Just recently, the FDA requested drug manufacturers to produce new formulations to target the current strains.
In advance of the update, the distribution of current vaccines will wind down over the next couple of weeks. However, supplies of the current vaccine will still be available until September for “exceptional cases”.
The agency later clarified that some individuals may desire or need a COVID-19 shot before the anticipated release of the updated version in the fall.
Why Some People Don’t Get COVID Symptoms
Individuals who contract the virus but never develop symptoms, aka “super dodgers”, may have a genetic advantage, according to a new study.
Research has shown that they are more than twice as likely, compared to those who do develop symptoms, to have a specific gene variation that allows the body to destroy the virus.
More specifically, these “super dodgers” appear to have a mutation that supports the leukocyte antigen, which allows virus-killing cells to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These immune system cells are then able to kill the coronavirus, even if it’s the first encounter due to the similarity between SARS-CoV-2 and some seasonal cold viruses.
Scientists estimate that nearly 10 percent of the population carries the gene variation, and those who have two copies of the variant have additional protection by more than eight times.