Aug 18, 2023 - COVID

Minnesota COVID levels, hospitalizations rise

Data: CDC. Note: Change in average weekly rate at a sample of 6,000 hospitals from June 4 to July 1 and July 2-29, 2023. Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

COVID-19 levels are creeping up in Minnesota once again, though they remain far below previous peaks.

What's happening: Wastewater analysis in the Twin Cities showed an average 31% increase in the virus' presence last week.

  • Per the CDC, hospitalizations were up 36% month-over-month though they remain far below levels seen last summer.

Why it matters: Closely watched metrics suggest infections are picking up across the nation, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

  • The late summer spread comes as a new variant, EG.5, is now the dominant form in the U.S.

Yes, but: It's unclear if that variant is directly responsible for the rising numbers. XXB, another recent Omicron strain, remains the dominant variant in Twin Cities wastewater.

Be smart: While EG.5 may be better at evading existing immunity, there's no evidence to date that it causes more severe disease, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy director Michael Osterholm noted on a recent episode of his podcast.

  • Statewide, deaths due to COVID remain in the single digits most weeks, per MDH.

Zoom out: The average COVID-19 hospitalization rate nationwide rose about 17% between June and July, per the latest available CDC data. Wastewater analysis is also detecting rising levels.

Data: CDC. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CDC. Chart: Axios Visuals

Between the lines: This uptick comes at a less-than-ideal time. Many of us put COVID in our rearview mirrors, leaving us both mentally and practically ill-prepared for another wave.

  • A newly updated booster, which is likely to offer more protection to people with waning immunity, won't be out until this fall.

The bottom line: There's no sign we're headed for anything like the waves of the peak pandemic era. But the trend is a reminder that COVID will remain part of life for the foreseeable future.


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