California Sees Decline In COVID Hospitalizations. Will It Last?

New COVID-19 hospital admissions have decreased for a second consecutive week in California, signaling a modest but reassuring trend as the state emerges from a late-summer swell of infections.

The daily average of patients admitted for COVID-19 fell approximately 13% over the past two weeks, dropping from an average of 395 to 343 daily, according to health department data published Friday.

California’s seven-day rolling coronavirus test positivity rate, indicating the percentage of lab tests positive for the virus, has decreased to 9.4% from 10.8% over the same period. The concentration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, has been gradually diminishing in most Bay Area wastewater samples since mid-August.

This decline in COVID-19 hospital admissions aligns with a national trend, as data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates an incremental 3% decrease for the week ending Sept. 23. Concurrently, COVID-19 emergency department visits, a key indicator of pandemic trends, fell by nearly 12%.

Public health experts warn that the reprieve may be short-lived, with expectations of an increase in cases as winter approaches and community immunity from late-summer infections begins to wane.

“We know on the COVID side that we have been having an increase in hospitalizations, in cases,” Mandy Cohen, director of the CDC, said at a media briefing last week. “We had a late summer wave. We do actually see some declines in our hospitalizations from COVID, but we fully expect based on what we’ve seen in previous years that we’re going to see an increase in COVID as well.”

The threat posed by the highly mutated coronavirus BA.2.86 omicron subvariant appears to be fading. While it remains a concern in certain countries, the more familiar XBB.1.6 and EG.5 strains continue to dominate in California, with prevalence rates of 28% and 20%, respectively.

Nationally, EG.5 accounted for approximately 30% of new infections over the past two weeks, followed by the lesser-known FL.1.5.1 and HV.1. BA.2.86 has not yet gained enough prevalence nationally to be tracked.

During this period of relative calm, health authorities are urging individuals aged 6 months and older to get vaccinated with the new COVID-19 shot, which is designed to protect against newer versions of the coronavirus. Many people are getting their shots alongside those for influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

“These vaccines may not be perfect in being able to prevent absolutely every infection with these illnesses, but they turn a wild infection into a milder one,” said Dr. William Schaffner of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Despite initial challenges, such as issues with insurance companies and logistical glitches, approximately 2 million Americans have received the new COVID-19 shot in the two weeks since its approval, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.


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