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COVID-19 Briefing: Latest on Virus Forecasting, a New Variant, Vaccines

September 05, 2023

Amid reports of a new variant, public health officials are continuing to monitor new COVID-19 hospitalizations for signs of a potential fall comeback.

Here are five things to know this week:

  • Updated CDC forecast:  The CDC’s updated forecast predicts anywhere between 1,700 and 9,700 daily COVID-19 hospital admissions on September 25. This would continue an increasing trend, but hospitalizations remain far below peak pandemic levels.
    • Pennsylvania’s forecast through September 18 ranges from a low end near 50 daily COVID-19 hospitalizations to a high estimate of 450. Most daily forecasts have hospitalizations trending around 100.
    • The forecasts are a tool, but they should not be relied upon to make public health decisions as the virus can rapidly change, federal officials noted.
  • Current levels:  National weekly COVID-19 new hospital admissions (15,067) are up nearly 19 percent in the most recent week.
    • Pennsylvania’s new hospital admissions for the week ending August 19 rose to 403, an 11 percent increase.
  • Variant proportions:  EG.5 is the top-circulating variant (21.5%), followed by FL.1.5.1 (14.5%), and XBB.1.16.6 (9.2%)
    • Initial lab tests indicated that our immune systems are able to respond to the highly mutated BA.2.86 “Pirola” variant at the same rate or better than the currently circulating XBB variants, CNN reported.
  • Triple-demic vaccines:  Public health experts are monitoring case rates for COVID-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It’s expected that the latest updated COVID-19 vaccine will be available in mid- or late-September. Earlier this year, the FDA approved two RSV vaccines for people over 60, as well as a monoclonal antibody therapy for infants and toddlers at high risk.
    • During August, the FDA approved Abrysvo for pregnant people to protect their babies from RSV.
  • First lady tests positive:  First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, according to media reports. President Joe Biden has tested negative and his schedule remains unchanged at this time, federal officials said.

HAP continues to monitor the latest COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members.