Covid-19 Hospitalizations Jump 30%: ‘Virus Is Still Very Much With Us’


                                                                 By Marc Lallanilla

In the rush of holiday activities, you may have forgotten about COVID-19 — but it hasn’t forgotten about us.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that as of November 25, there were almost 20,000 weekly hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, a jump of nearly 30% in just four weeks.

The rates of hospitalization — typically a sign of severe, life-threatening infection — have been highest among seniors ages 65 and older. Adults ages 50 to 64 were also hospitalized at rising rates, as were infants and children younger than four years old.

“COVID has not disappeared, although it may have gone from many people’s minds,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “I’m afraid the COVID virus is still very much with us.”

One reason hospitalizations have jumped in recent weeks is because fewer people are getting vaccinated this year compared to earlier in the pandemic.

Over 94% of adults aged 65 and older have completed a primary series of the original vaccine, but just 33% of those seniors have received the updated vaccine, according to the CDC. And earlier vaccines have limited strength against newer variants of the coronavirus.

“Many people, although they have been vaccinated in the past, have not taken advantage of this updated vaccine,” Schaffner said. “And the protection afforded by the previous vaccinations is now slowly declining. And so, we have a highly vulnerable population whose protection is slowly waning.”

Moreover, people above the age of 50 are likely to have underlying health conditions and chronic diseases that leave them vulnerable to severe disease and hospitalization.

Infants and young children under age 4 have the third-highest rate of hospitalizations, according to the CDC, at 1.6% per 100,000 for the week ending December 2.

And young children have very low rates of vaccination, according to CDC data: Less than 7% of children ages six months to 17 years have received the updated vaccine as of November 25.

Experts believe that many people assume healthy children are immune to severe COVID-19 infection.

“Everyone knows that children are less apt to be seriously affected by COVID infections than older adults,” said Schaffner. “The alternate concept that is hard for parents to grasp is that nonetheless, young children account for the third most common age group with hospitalizations.”

Healthcare providers are concerned that as the holiday season continues, infections of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses will also continue to climb.

Past trends show that increases in severe illnesses and hospitalizations have occurred during the colder months when people stay indoors, close their windows and gather to celebrate the holidays, creating “ideal conditions for respiratory viruses to spread,” said Dr. John Brownstein of Boston Children’s Hospital.

“As people gather for the holidays, it’s crucial to remain vigilant about COVID-19, especially in protecting vulnerable populations like the elderly and infants,” Brownstein said.

“Practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, and staying home if feeling unwell are key. Additionally, ensuring proper ventilation in indoor spaces and considering wearing masks in crowded settings can significantly reduce the risk of transmission.”


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