First, the respiratory virus season brought us RSV to worry about, and then came influenza. Now, Covid-19, which had taken a back seat to those viruses, is once again becoming a menace, and health officials are urging people to stay vigilant.
Make no mistake. Cold and flu season is still in full swing in the United States. Flu cases are still high, but they appear to have peaked and are trending downward.
“It’s pretty clear that there was a peak of activity, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have another one,” said Lynnette Brammer, lead of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s domestic influenza surveillance team. “Things could turn around and go back up.”
Flu is notoriously unpredictable, and the burden of disease varies widely from season to season. This season hit earlier than usual, but outcomes are within an expected range – at least so far.
Still, experts say they’re relieved to see those numbers coming down.
White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said Friday on CNN that health officials are monitoring RSV and the flu even as numbers continue to fall. Covid-19, however, is rising in many parts of the country.
“Obviously, right now, Covid is the thing that is increasing that we need to pay most attention to,” Jha said.
Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations climb
Experts had predicted that more travel and social mixing over the winter holidays would fuel Covid-19’s spread.
As of January 4, the CDC says, the weekly average of cases is up to about 67,000, a 16% increase over the week prior.
That’s almost certainly a sizable underestimate of the true Covid-19 disease burden in the US, since more people are using rapid tests at home and their cases aren’t being reported to official channels.
Beyond cases are other signs that Covid-19 is on the upswing. On a national level, data from Biobot Analytics, a company that predicts Covid-19 trends based on data from sewage, shows that viral levels in wastewater are increasing.
Hospitalizations for Covid-19 are climbing and have now surpassed the numbers seen during last summer’s BA.5 wave. Seniors are being hit particularly hard. More than 2,700 people died from Covid-19 last week.
The CDC says that about 1 in 5 counties or territories has a high Covid-19 community level, where masking is recommended indoors.
In the Northeast, a new Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, has quickly taken hold, and experts are watching to see if it will take off in other parts of the country, as well.
CDC changes variant estimates
The CDC released data Friday suggesting that XBB.1.5 is not growing quite as q …