Aug 21, 2023 - News

COVID is clawing its way back around D.C.

Change in COVID-19 hospitalization rate
Data: CDC. Chart: Axios Visuals

More people around the D.C. area are wearing masks again while out and about — even outdoors.

  • That's because COVID-19 is back on the upswing, according to closely watched metrics.

Driving the news: The amount of COVID in D.C.'s wastewater has been climbing steadily since late June, per data from the CDC's wastewater surveillance contractor Biobot.

  • And the District's hospitalization rate rose 29% between June and July, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

Meanwhile, Maryland's rate jumped 39% during the same time period.

  • Virginia's rate increased by 15%.

The big picture: The average COVID hospitalization rate nationwide rose about 17% between June and July, per the CDC.

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.

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

Be smart: The summer uptick comes at a less-than-ideal time in terms of booster availability.

  • An updated booster is expected to get FDA approval in mid-September, per the Washington Post. Shots would be available later that month.
  • While the booster wasn't specifically designed with EG.5 in mind, it will likely offer at least some protection, experts told NBC News.
  • 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.

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 will remain a public health concern for the foreseeable future.

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