COVID, Flu Rates Rising Nationwide, But RSV May Have Peaked

2 min read

Dec. 4, 2023 – COVID-19 appears to be heading for a holiday season increase across most of the country. More people are testing positive, visiting emergency rooms for treatment, and being admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms. The sizable uptick follows a relatively quiet autumn for COVID, and comes as rates of other respiratory illnesses like the flu are also picking up.

One in 10 COVID tests reported to the CDC were positive during the week ending Nov. 25, which is a 9% increase, compared to the 2 weeks prior. COVID was diagnosed during nearly 2% of emergency room visits, which although small overall, is an 11% increase over the prior week. Hospital admissions for COVID reached nearly 20,000 for the week ending Nov. 25, marking a 10% jump.

COVID is particularly increasing in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., according to the CDC. Nationwide, rates are up for what health officials generically call respiratory illness, which means having a fever and either a cough or sore throat. The CDC even recently highlighted some isolated but surprisingly high rates of pneumonia in children, and noted that pediatric inpatient beds are nearing capacity levels seen last year, when respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) overwhelmed some children’s wards. 

As of Nov. 25, about 74% of pediatric inpatient beds were being used nationwide, according to CDC data, nearing the 2022 level around the same time of 80%. The latest RSV numbers, though, suggested that the nation isn’t headed toward another nightmare RSV season. RSV rates spiked in mid-November this year, reaching more than 9,000 reported cases nationally, but this past week’s count is down by about 1,000 positive tests. 

CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, told The Associated Press that “we think we’re near the peak of RSV season or will be in the next week or so.”

Meanwhile, flu rates are climbing, with a 6% test positivity rate nationwide and 4,268 hospitalizations for the week ending Nov. 25. Eight children have died due to flu-related causes so far this season, as have about 1,100 adults, according to the CDC’s latest flu summary.

“Seasonal influenza activity continues to increase in most parts of the country, most notably in the South Central, Southeast, Mountain, and West Coast regions,” the agency wrote in its weekly FluView publication.

The CDC recommends that people ages 6 months and older get both a flu and COVID vaccine. About 38% of children and adults have gotten this year’s flu shots, with rates reaching 62% among people ages 65 and older. About 7% of U.S. children have gotten the latest COVID vaccine. Among adults, 16% have gotten the now seasonal COVID jab, with rates pushing up to 33% among seniors. The CDC called those current vaccination rates “low.”