The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today noted that COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 8.7% and deaths up 4.5% in the most recent reporting week, though numbers are still quite low.
Roughly 18,900 Americans were hospitalized for the virus in the first week of September, the CDC said, a number not seen since mid-March.
Parts of Montana, Texas, Alabama, and Florida have seen significant increases in virus activity, but the CDC notes that fewer jurisdictions are reporting data in regular intervals.
In the United States, Omicron lineage EG.5 represented 24.5% of cases, and FL.1.5.1 represented 13.1% of cases. Variants XBB.1.16 and XBB.1.16.6 accounted for 10% each of all cases tracked in the first 2 weeks of September.
Global case counts increase
Also today, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its weekly epidemiologic update on COVID-19, noting that globally cases have increased by 38% but deaths have decreased by 50% over the past 28 days.
Case counts rose by 39% in Europe, 52% in the Western Pacific, and 113% in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cases decreased in two WHO regions: Africa (-76%), and the Southeast Asia (-48%).
Two WHO regions reported increases in deaths, the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific.
Korea, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Singapore reported the biggest spikes in cases, with Korea and Italy also reporting the biggest jump in new 28-day deaths.
Similar to US data, the WHO said EG.5 is now the most prevalent variant of interest, accounting for 26.1% of sequences in epidemiological week 32 (August 7 to 13).
XBB.1.5 still predominant variant in Europe
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's (ECDC's) update on COVID-19 in Europe notes that, of 19 countries reporting data, 7 noted an increase in cases. And, of 9 and 14 countries reporting COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths, respectively, 1 country reported an increase in hospital admissions and 1 reported an increase in deaths.
XBB.1.5 continues to be the predominant variant in Europe. In related news, the European Medicines Agency has approved Moderna's new Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccine for use in Europe. It had approved Pfizer's version in late August.
"Among 16 countries that reported age-specific data on cases positive for COVID-19, 12 observed increases in case rates among people aged 65 years and above," the ECDC wrote. "As this age group has the highest risk of severe disease, these figures highlight the importance of continuing to monitor disease and implement protective measures in older age groups."
Vaccines for uninsured in US
In April, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the "HHS Bridge Access Program For COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments Program" to maintain broad access to COVID-19 vaccines for millions of uninsured Americans.
The program launched this week, providing continued free coverage for the estimated 25 million to 30 million adults who would have otherwise lost access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines.
"We have more tools than ever to protect against serious COVID-19 disease and death, but we must make sure everyone has equitable access to those tools," said CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, in a press release. "This CDC program provides free COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured and underinsured adults at pharmacies, health centers and health departments around the country."
CDC thinks respiratory illnesses may mimic last year
Yesterday the CDC released a preliminary respiratory disease season forecast or "outlook" that presents a range of potential scenarios for this fall and winter for COVID, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and flu. Hospitalizations and severe illness are on track to mirror last year's numbers, but COVID-19 activity could peak earlier because of low summer activity, the agency said.
Overall, the CDC said there is only low-to-moderate confidence in its early predictions, and said it is so far too early to tell how Omicron BA.2.86 will affect COVID-19 illnesses.
"Last year's [RSV] season likely elevated population immunity to typical levels, which had previously been lower because of reduced RSV circulation early in the COVID-19 pandemic," the CDC said. "There are also new RSV prevention tools available, which could potentially decrease hospital burden. These include vaccines for those aged 60 years and older and an immunization for infants."