COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in the United States, marking the first substantial increase this year. This surge in hospitalizations is occurring as students return to school and just ahead of the rollout of updated vaccine shots for a fall vaccination campaign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that new hospitalizations have increased by about 16% over the past week, continuing an upward trend that began in late July.
Key points regarding the COVID-19 hospitalization surge:
Hospitalization Increases: New hospital admissions have surged by more than 30% over the past week in several states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming, according to CDC data.
Change in Trend: This increase in hospitalizations marks a change from the previous trend of declining hospitalizations and deaths that had been observed since January.
Guard Down: Experts like Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House coronavirus response coordinator, have expressed concerns that the U.S. has let its guard down and is not adequately addressing the current wave of infections. Birx emphasized that COVID-19 is still relevant, and there is a need for increased testing and public health vigilance.
Updated Vaccine Shots: The U.S. is preparing to roll out updated COVID-19 vaccine shots from Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax later this month for a fall vaccination campaign. However, these shots were designed to target a variant (XBB.1.5) that is no longer dominant. Experts like Birx argue that the vaccines should have been released earlier to address the predictable summer wave, and new shots targeting emerging variants should already be in development.
BA.2.86 Variant: A new variant, BA.2.86, has been a cause for concern due to its ability to partially evade immunity from vaccination or previous infection. It has been detected in multiple countries, including the U.S.
Preparation for Fall and Winter: The Biden administration believes the U.S. is well-prepared with vaccines, antivirals, and at-home tests heading into the fall and winter. Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that while COVID-19 cases may increase, the country has a substantial level of immunity from vaccination and prior infection.
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