Here we go again: COVID-19 hospital admissions have inched upward in the United States since early July in a small-scale echo of the three previous summers.
With an updated vaccine still months away, this summer bump in new hospitalizations might be concerning, but the number of patients is far lower than before. A look at what we know:
HOW BAD IS THE SPIKE?
For the week ending July 29, COVID-19 hospital admissions were at 9,056. That’s an increase of about 12% from the previous week.
But it’s a far cry from past peaks, like the 44,000 weekly hospital admissions in early January, the nearly 45,000 in late July 2022, or the 150,000 admissions during the omicron surge of January 2022.
“It is ticking up a little bit, but it’s not something that we need to raise any alarm bells over,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
It’s likely that infections are rising too, but the data is scant. Federal authorities ended the public health emergency in May, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many states no longer track the number of positive test results.
WHAT ABOUT DEATHS?
Since early June, about 500 to 600 people have died each week. The number of deaths appears to be stable this summer, although past increases in deaths have lagged behind hospitalizations.
HOW ARE WE TRACKING THE VIRUS?
The amount of the COVID-19 virus in sewage water has been rising since late June across the nation. In the coming weeks, health officials say they’ll keep a close eye on wastewater levels as people return from summer travel and students go back to school.
Higher levels of COVID-19 in wastewater concentrations are being found in the Northeast and South, said Cristin Young, an epidemiologist at Biobot Analytics, the CDC’s wastewater surveillance contractor.
“It’s important to remember right now the concentrations are still fairly low,” Young said, adding it’s about 2.5 times lower than last summer.