Aug 18, 2023 - COVID

COVID hospitalization rates rise statewide

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

COVID-19 hospitalization rates across Washington state have ticked upward since June, amid signs of a late summer wave sweeping the country.

Why it matters: With the rise in at-home testing making official COVID-19 case numbers less reliable, hospitalization rates are an important metric for gauging viral spread.

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

  • In Washington state, the increase between June and July was less — about 4%.
  • That made for an average hospitalization rate of about 1.8 per 100,000 people in July, according to the CDC.

Yes, but: State officials report that COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to rise since then, reaching 2.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in early August.

What's happening: A new variant, EG.5, is now the dominant form 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.

  • In July, they were down 82% year-over-year, both nationally and in Washington state, according to the CDC data.

Zoom out: Hospitalization rates from June to July rose the fastest in Mississippi (+73% month over month), Alabama (+66%) and Louisiana (+66%).

  • Yet they were down in Michigan (-32%), Vermont (-31%) and Rhode Island (-31%).

Of note: Wastewater analysis also is detecting rising levels of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — nationwide.

  • Such analyses are especially useful in a world with less individual testing, as wastewater can reveal broad trends across wide areas, absent mass nose-swabbing campaigns.

The bottom line: There's no sign we're headed for anything like the waves of the peak pandemic era. But it's still an alarming trend, and a reminder that COVID-19 remains a public health concern.


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