Aug 21, 2023 - Health

Arkansas below nation in COVID-19 hospitalization rates

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

COVID-19 hospitalization rates across Arkansas fell 16% from June to July amid signs of a late-summer wave sweeping the country.

By the numbers: The average COVID-19 hospitalization rate nationwide rose about 17% between June and July, per the latest available CDC data.

  • A new variant, EG.5, is now dominant in the U.S., according to CDC estimates — though it's unclear if it's directly responsible for the rising numbers.

Reality check: In both percentage change and raw terms, nationwide hospitalizations remain far below their pandemic-era peak.

  • They're down 82% year over year, while the CDC reports 10,320 overall hospital admissions in the week of July 30-Aug. 5, compared to more than 150,000 one week in January 2022.

Why it matters: Simply put, our guard is down.

  • Many of us put COVID in our rearview mirrors, leaving us both mentally and practically ill prepared for another wave.
  • "Experts warn the U.S. is lacking critical tools to help manage future waves," as Axios' Sabrina Moreno recently reported.

Zoom in: Hospitalization rates are rising fastest in Mississippi (+73% month over month), followed by Alabama and Louisiana (both +66%).

  • Yet, they're down in Michigan (-32%), Vermont (-31%) and Rhode Island (-31%).
  • Remember from past waves that COVID moves around the country unequally, ebbing in some areas and flowing in others at any given time.

Be smart: With far less testing happening these days than at the height of the pandemic, hospitalization rates are among the best proxies for estimating broader viral spread.

This uptick comes at a less-than-ideal time with regard to booster availability.

Those behind on their shots need to decide whether it makes sense to wait for the updated booster or to beef up their protection now in the face of this uptick.

The bottom line: There's no sign we're headed for anything like the waves of the peak pandemic era. Still, it's an alarming trend, and a reminder that COVID will remain a public health concern for the foreseeable future.


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