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5 Things to Know: The Latest on COVID-19 Boosters, PHE, Case Counts

November 14, 2022

In Pennsylvania and across the nation, hospital leaders continue to monitor steady COVID-19 case counts alongside the earlier-than-expected rise of other seasonal respiratory viruses, such as RSV and the flu.

As we approach the winter months and the holiday season, public health leaders are stressing the importance of vaccinations to help keep people healthy.

“We have safe, effective vaccines that can protect us,” Dr. Denise Johnson, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of health and physician general, said during an event last week. 

Here are five things to know this week about COVID-19:

  • Extending the federal PHE:  Media reports indicate the federal COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will be extended through at least mid-January. The public health emergency is tied to the expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and additional flexibilities that have helped hospitals respond to COVID-19.
    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said it will provide at least 60 days’ notice before allowing the emergency period to expire.
  • Variant proportions:  BA.5 continues to lose ground as the main circulating variant (29.7%), but the other Omicron subvariants, BQ 1.1 (24.1%) and BQ.1 (20.1%), are gaining ground.
  • Overall trends:  Nationally, weekly COVID-19 cases remain below 300,000 but have increased slightly during the past seven days. The current seven-day average for new hospital admissions for COVID-19 was 3,229, a 3.7 percent decrease from the prior week.
    • In Pennsylvania, there are 1,261 COVID-19 patients, including 163 adults in the intensive care unit and 58 on ventilators.
  • A fresh boost:  Moderna today reported its updated COVID-19 booster shot had encouraging results against BA.4 and BA.5., generating a 15.1-fold increase in the neutralizing antibody response against the variants.
    • The news reports follow encouraging initial data from Pfizer-BioNTech about its updated booster earlier this month 
  • Quotable:  "Our bivalent boosters also show, in research assays, neutralizing activity against BQ.1.1, an increasingly dominant emerging variant, confirming that updated vaccines have the potential to offer protection as the virus continues to evolve rapidly to escape our immunity," Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's CEO, said in a statement today.

HAP encourages everyone to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and follow the proper public health precautions to reduce the spread of the virus. Learn more about how you can protect yourself and others this winter.

Additionally, HAP has published a toolkit that highlights the strain RSV and other seasonal illnesses are placing on hospital emergency departments and the importance of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. The communications toolkit includes key messages, social media assets, and other resources and is available online.

You can make an appointment to receive your COVID-19 vaccine online.