US public health officials are bracing for a possible Covid-19 surge in the coming weeks following indoor holiday gatherings among a populace that has largely abandoned preventive measures.
Concerns over this uptick come amid rising influenza and RSV cases in America. This so-called “tripledemic,” experts warn, could further strain the already overburdened US health system.
Evidence of an increase emerged in earnest after Thanksgiving, celebrated on 24 November this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly new case data reported on 30 November stood at 308,578, rising to 470,963 in the 7 December report. In the 14 December weekly report, that number dipped to 455,028 – but ballooned to 487, 367 in the 21 December analysis.
Hospitalization admissions are also on the rise. The seven-day average from 15 to 21 December was 5,376, compared to 5,052 the prior week. Data show this increase has been in motion since late October, following several months of declines, according to the CDC.
This increase is being felt in different ways across the US. In Florida, Covid hospitalizations across the state remain around three-month peaks, fueled by omicron sub-variants,the Palm Beach Post reported.
Across Washington, DC’s metropolitan area, cases have gone up since Thanksgiving, but they have not reached levels seen during the 2021 holiday season, when omicron started to take hold across the US, according to the Washington Post. Analysis of wastewater in Houston, Texas, suggests that there is a “mini-surge” that comes in conjunction with the growing prevalence of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 omicron subvariants, the Houston Chronicle reported.
While these numbers pale in comparison to the winter 2022 peak in the US – with more than 5.6m new cases reported the week of 19 January – officials are working to thwart this upward trend.
President Joe Biden announced on 15 December that his administration was re-starting a program that sends free Covid-19 tests to US households through the mail service. The White House said that officials were poised to support healthcare staffing needs across the US, and that medical supplies from the national strategic stockpile were ready-to-ship if necessary.
Although the US is staring down a possible seasonal increase, it appears that many are not all that worried. Just 14.6% of US residents age 5 and up have received their updated booster dose, which is said to provide greater protection against omicron variants, CDC data indicate.
There have been nearly 1.1m Covid-19 deaths in the US. More than 100m cases have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University data.