The Weather: Transmission levels remain high, with 98.5 percent of the population living in areas with substantial or higher transmission.
On Variants: The CDC variant report, which includes many strains no longer circulating, shows BQ1/1.1 (darker teals) remain dominant – 69% overall & most common in all regions. The only other variants still increasing are XBB (light purple, particularly on the coasts) and BN1 (green-brown).
We’ve previously shared that no monoclonal antibodies are left against the newer variants. Some lab data suggest vaccines may also be less effective against XBB – but we need additional epidemiology data to know the real-world impact.
Wastewater Monitoring: National wastewater levels are remaining high overall, and in all regions, except the West. Levels are higher than any peak prior to Omicron.
Vaccinations: New data show bivalent boosters provide significant extra protection against severe disease, especially for unvaccinated folks or whose last vaccine was 11+ months ago. This highlights that COVID protection – from vaccines or infections – is difficult to maintain long term.
The bivalent booster was especially protective among those over 65 years old, who are among the most vulnerable for hospitalization and death. Unfortunately, booster uptake remains low, at only 14% overall and 36% among seniors.
Hospitalizations: Hospitalizations continue to rise, with particularly high rates among those 70+. All regions are rising, except the West. There are fewer hospitalizations compared to other winter surges but there is still too much transmission, too many deaths & too much pressure on hospitals.
Deaths: The week of December 14, at least 2,703 people died of COVID nationally. For the first time, the CDC also reported that 3,544 people died of Long Covid from Jan 2020 through June 2022 – and this is likely an undercount.
Forecast: The forecast, simply, is not good. COVID cases are rising while flu, RSV and other winter illnesses are filling hospitals. Children are becoming severely ill with strep throat in Europe & here in the US.
This article is a good summary, but we disagree with their dismissal of immunity damage caused by COVID. The CDC found that children have more severe disease when they are sick with both flu and COVID at the same time.
A recent poll highlights that many Americans are indeed worried about increased hospitalizations and their own health this winter. These worries are highest among Black and Hispanic participants, reflecting that these communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic.
Take Action: The government is making rapid tests available again! Go to covidtests.gov & order a pack of 4 tests per household – stock up or share with your community! You can also order up to 5 tests in certain zip codes at https://www.accesscovidtests.org/en
While rapid tests are not included in most case counts, you can report your test results at makemytestcount.org. Use the PCDC’s testing guide & safer gatherings kit to make the most of your tests: https://peoplescdc.org/2022/09/12/testing/ & https://peoplescdc.org/2022/11/17/safer-in-person-gatherings/
Two other notes about tests: 3 lots of Detect home PCR tests from this summer are being recalled. Double-check your rapid test expiration dates – many have been extended.
Of course, 4 tests won’t go very far this winter. Folks with insurance can still get 8 tests per person, each month. And sign here to encourage the White House to follow up free tests with free high-quality masks: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/freen95s/
Families in Virginia won an important case this week: schools must require masks to protect vulnerable students. Philadelphia schools will be requiring masks after winter break. We applaud this decision & hope other schools will follow or even start masking now!
Notes: 1) The numbers in this report were current as of 12/16. The CDC updates data frequently as it receives refreshed information. Today’s numbers may be slightly different from the data here. 2) Check out the links throughout & see our website for more! https://peoplescdc.org.