The U.S. is riding another wave of rising COVID-19 infections, as holiday gatherings and a new variant are driving increased transmission.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the wastewater viral activity level for COVID-19 is the highest it’s been since the omicron surge in 2022.
At the same time, a new variant called JN.1 has become the most dominant strain and was responsible for about 44 percent of infections nationwide by mid-December, a sharp rise from about 7 percent in late November.
Infectious disease experts say hospitals have plenty of capacity, and many infections are relatively mild. While numbers are ticking higher, the country isn’t experiencing a major surge.
What to know about COVID variant JN.1
Still, the CDC can’t track the actual number of infections, especially since most people either test at home or don’t test at all. So experts say wastewater is one of the more accurate warning signs. The Midwest is experiencing the highest levels of viral activity.
The agency reported 29,000 hospitalizations in the week before Christmas, compared with 39,000 in 2022. Week-over-week emergency department visits were up 12 percent in the same period.
Since Thanksgiving, about 1,400 people a week on average have been dying because of COVID-19.