Jan 12, 2024 - Health

Tripledemic may have peaked around the holidays

Illustration of arrows breaking up the coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Key indicators for respiratory illness declined for the first time in weeks after the holidays, signaling that the tripledemic of flu, COVID-19 and RSV may have peaked nationwide, according to updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics.

What they found: 37 jurisdictions experienced high or very high incidence of fever plus cough or sore throat for the week ending Jan. 6, compared to 39 jurisdictions the previous week. COVID test positivity held stable while the percentage of positive lab tests for flu decreased nationally to 14%.

  • Emergency department visits for COVID fell 13%.

Yes, but: The CDC said the declines might have been affected by the holidays and will continue to be monitored.

  • The agency said it's watching for a second period of increased flu activity that often occurs after the winter holidays.
  • COVID hospitalizations rose 3.2% for the week, after rising 20.4% the previous week, indicating the predominant JN.1 variant will likely continue to burden health systems for weeks to come.

Between the lines: Officials continue to rely on wastewater analysis to track the spread of COVID, because few people are still testing and few of those results are reported to local or state health officials.

  • Viral activity nationwide remains very high and rising, especially in the South and the Midwest. The CDC said there are early indications that the rate of increase is slowing in the Midwest and Northeast.
  • Despite high infection levels, the CDC hasn't changed its recommendations —which include getting updated vaccines and testing if respiratory symptoms arise — because JN.1 doesn't appear to pose additional risks.
  • Indicators of COVID-19 illness requiring medical attention still remain lower than a year ago, suggesting that while the variant is driving transmission, it's not producing more severe sickness, per a commentary in JAMA today.
  • Public health officials have said updated COVID vaccines and tests work for JN.1.
Go deeper