COVID data show small rise ahead of the holidays

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After declining trends since the end of September, US COVID indicators rose slightly last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its latest updates.

The rise comes just ahead of Thanksgiving gatherings and as other respiratory viruses such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continue to increase. In a survey update today, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that Americans' concerns about COVID-19 are lagging, which it says may explain lukewarm uptake of the updated vaccine.

Slight rise follows recent downturns

Among the CDC's severity markers, hospitalizations rose 8.6% compared to the previous week. More than 16,000 people were admitted to the hospital for COVID last week. The level of new admissions is lower than the CDC saw in November 2022.

Hospitalization rates for COVID are increasing in infants younger than 6 months old and in seniors at several locations. A few counties are at the high level for hospitalization rates, most of which are in Montana, Nebraska, and Kansas. In its weekly respiratory virus snapshot, the CDC said hospital occupancy and capacity, including intensive care units, remains stable.

COVID-related deaths rose 9.1% over the same period, with COVID responsible for 2.4% of all deaths. The highest levels were in Colorado and Maryland.

Early indicators—emergency department (ED) visits and test positivity—also rose. ED visits for COVID rose 7.1% compared to the week before and were at the substantial level in New Mexico. The CDC said ED visits for COVID are highest in children younger than 2 years old and in seniors.

Nationally, test positivity is at 8.4%, reflecting a 0.1 percentage-point rise, with levels higher in the Midwest and West Central regions than in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, wastewater detection analysis reported by Biobot shows a gradual increase since the middle of October, with rises seen in most regions.

Worrying signals in vaccine intention, holiday precautions

In its latest vaccine uptake estimates, the CDC said uptake varies widely by age. Seniors have the highest level, at 31.7%, followed by 14.8% in other adult age-groups, and 5.4% for children. The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older be immunized.

The latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey, conducted from October 31 to November 7, found that about half of US adults don't plan to get the updated COVID vaccine, which has been available for 2 months. Similar to previous patterns, uptake is highest in seniors and Democrats, with lower levels in younger adults, Republicans, and independents. Black and Hispanic adults were more likely than Whites to say they intend to get the updated vaccine.

Besides lagging concern about the virus, other reasons for not getting the vaccine were lack of time and waiting to get it later.

The poll also surveyed respondents about their thoughts on COVID and the winter holidays, with about a quarter worried that they will contract the virus over the holidays, but with 46% concerned about a rise in hospitalizations.

KFF said the public is divided over precautions of the holidays, with about half signaling they will take some precautions to limit the spread of the virus, such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask in crowded settings, and half saying they won't take any.

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