US COVID markers up slightly again

covid nasal swabbing

US Navy, Kelby Sanders / Flickr cc

The two main indicators that federal health officials use to track COVID-19 activity—hospitalizations and deaths—both registered small rises this week, as did other indicators of virus activity, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Starting from very low levels, hospitalizations for COVID rose 12.5% this week compared to last week. Though levels have now risen for the fifth straight week, COVID admissions still make up a small percentage of all hospitalizations.

On the CDC's COVID-19 hospitalization map, only a few counties saw medium rates of COVID admissions. None were listed as high. The CDC’s guidance for individual and community actions are tied to hospital admission levels for the virus, which are currently low for 99% of the country.

Deaths stay low, but show slight rise

For the first time this summer, deaths rose and were up 10% from the previous week. COVID-related fatalities made up only 1.1% of the nation's deaths.

The metrics the CDC uses as early indicators of increasing virus activity also reflected small rises. Emergency department (ED) visits for COVID were up 21.4% compared to the previous week, with evaluation for COVID making up just 1.2% of all ED visits. However, levels were a bit higher in south and southeastern states.

Test positivity rose 1.6% compared to the week before, and is at 10.6% nationally. Levels were higher in Texas and surrounding states, followed by the southeast, southwest, and northwest regions.

CDC wastewater tracking reflects a general upward trend, with few sites reporting large increases. Biobot wastewater tracking suggests gradually rising levels in all regions of the country, with the Southeast and Northeast reporting the highest levels.

In other CDC tracking, COVID cases in nursing home residents have been slowly rising since the middle of July, according to data from the National Healthcare Safety Network. In the most recent reporting week, there were 4.7 cases among 1,000 resident-weeks. Deaths, however, don't appear to be rising.

Europe's COVID levels show upward trend

Following several weeks of declining or stable activity across European countries, case notification rates are increasing, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today in its weekly update, though it urged caution in interpreting trends due to fewer countries reporting their data and delayed reporting over the summer holidays.

Transmission, though, appears to be increasing from low levels in about half of reporting countries. Half of countries that reported data by age noted increases in people ages 65 and older. Some countries are reporting rises in clinic visits for respiratory symptoms and higher test positivity.

Of 11 countries that reported hospital or intensive care unit (ICU) admission data, only two reported an increasing trend for one of the indicators. Four of 15 countries reported increasing death rates in at least one age group.

Of 11 countries reporting adequate sequencing data for the last half of July, XBB.1.5 made up an estimated 94.8% of samples.

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