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With help from BA.5, new COVID hospitalizations quadrupled since April

Enlarge / A thrown-away surgical mask lays on the ground.

As the wave of omicron coronavirus subvariant BA.5 continues to flood the US, daily COVID-19 hospitalizations are four times higher than four months ago, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data reflects the high ongoing transmission of coronavirus subvariants adept at evading fading immune responses in a population that is largely unboosted.

In early April, as the US fell into a brief pandemic lull in the wake of the towering BA.1 omicron wave, the seven-day rolling average for new hospitalizations sunk to around 1,420 per day nationwide. Now, after waves of subvariants BA. 2, BA.2.12.1, and the current BA.5, hospitalizations have floated back up. The current seven-day rolling average is nearing 6,300. Overall, more than 37,000 people in the US are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

Enlarge / Daily trends in number of deaths and hospitalizations. The seven-day average of current hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 are in orange, and the seven-day average of deaths shown in red.

Fortunately, deaths have not risen as a result of increased hospitalizations. The average number of daily deaths is around 375 per day, according to the CDC.

But SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the burden of COVID-19 remains high in much of the country, allowing for more disease, hospitalization, and opportunities to generate new variants and subvariants.

According to the CDC’s community transmission data, 94 percent of US counties have high transmission levels, and an additional 3 percent have substantial levels. In terms of the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels metric, which account for local hospital capacity and usage as well as transmission, 46 percent of counties have high community levels. That means people should mask in indoor public settings, according to the CDC. An additional 35 percent of counties have medium community levels.

Americans have largely abandoned COVID-19 mitigation efforts, despite the continued high transmission levels and masking recommendations. Vaccination and booster rates also remain low. Nearly 33 percent of Americans have not received the two doses of vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated. About 67.5 percent have not received a single booster dose needed to be considered up to date on their vaccination.

In a radio interview Tuesday, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci called the figures “quite discouraging.” He warned Americans that “if they don’t get vaccinated or they don’t get boosted, they’re going to get into trouble.”

BA.5, the subvariant with the largest growth advantage to date over other versions of SARS-CoV-2, continues to increase its dominance in the US. It now accounts for an estimated 85 percent of all infections, up from 81 percent at the end of July.

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