HEALTH

COVID-19 levels are rising but still relatively low in the US, surveillance data shows

Aug 17, 2023, 7:00 AM

Wastewater samples suggest that Covid-19 transmission is increasing in most of the country. Photo c...

Wastewater samples suggest that Covid-19 transmission is increasing in most of the country. Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(CNN) — Federal surveillance data suggests that COVID-19 levels are trending up in the United States, but key metrics remain well below most other points in the pandemic.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise since early July, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the first week of August, more than 10,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s a 60% increase over the course of a month, including a 14% bump in the most recent week.

Rates are now at levels last seen in April. But weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations are still about a quarter of what they were at this time last year and lower than they were for about 90% of the pandemic.

The hospitalization rate is still significantly higher for seniors than for other age groups, and the share of hospitalized patients who require time in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator has held relatively steady for the past year and a half.

Overall, just about 1% of all hospital beds – both inpatient and intensive care units – are occupied by COVID-19 patients. At the height of the Omicron surge, more than a fifth of all hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients, CDC data shows.

Recent hospitalization rates tended to be higher in the South, including Florida, Alabama and Louisiana.

The CDC stopped reporting aggregate COVID-19 case counts this year, noting that data had become less representative of actual infections or transmission levels over time, “related to decreased laboratory testing, increased home testing, changes in reporting practices, and asymptomatic infections.”

Still, wastewater samples suggest that transmission is increasing in most of the country.

More than half of wastewater sampling sites that are part of the CDC’s surveillance program detected an increase in virus levels in the second half of July. And for about a third of sites, current data shows virus levels that are higher than they’ve been for more than half of time they’ve been tracked.

According to the CDC, less than a third of the population is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines in all but three states: Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.

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COVID-19 levels are rising but still relatively low in the US, surveillance data shows