US Sees Rise in COVID Cases After Thanksgiving

Lisa O'Mary

December 05, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The U.S. is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases, ignited by holiday travel and gatherings, health officials say.  

For months, COVID-19 metrics held steady, as the flu and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) dominated headlines and hospitals with earlier-than-usual onslaughts. Now, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 28% and test positivity is up 40% over the past 2 weeks, The New York Times data tracker shows. 

"We are seeing a Thanksgiving effect," University of California-Berkeley clinical professor emeritus John Swartzberg, MD, told  The Mercury News

Illinois reported the highest single-day COVID-19 case total since summertime. Several metropolitan areas, like Boston and San Francisco, are reporting high levels of the virus in wastewater, which is another way that officials track how widespread the virus is. 

Christmas and New Year's will bring more, Swartzberg predicted.

"There is no question in my mind that we're going to see a rise in cases," he said. "The question is what the slope will look like."

For now, hospital officials are mostly concerned about influenza and RSV cases straining their capacities, Nancy Foster of the American Hospital Association told  The Washington Post.

"It could be in a week or two we are seeing many more COVID patients than we are seeing RSV or flu, but the real concern is we will see a large influx of all of them really stressing out the hospitals' capacity to care for these very sick patients," she said.

The CDC recommends the following precautions to protect against COVID-19:

  • Get vaccinated and boosted. The New York Times reports that, compared to vaccinated people, the unvaccinated account for 3 times as many cases and 6 times as many deaths.

  • Immunocompromised people should talk to their health care providers about preventive medication such as Evusheld that is taken before being exposed or testing positive.

  • If you test positive, contact your health care provider, health department, or community health center to learn about treatment options that can begin within 5-7 days of the start of symptoms.

  • Protect yourself and others by wearing a mask, getting tested if needed, staying home while you have COVID-19 symptoms, improving ventilation when indoors, and monitoring COVID-19 levels in your community to make informed decisions.

Sources:

The Mercury News: "COVID cases surging in Bay Area after Thanksgiving holiday."

The New York Times: "Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, Updated Dec. 5, 2022."

The Boston Globe: "The level of coronavirus detected in Mass. Wastewater just shot up."

San Francisco Chronicle: "COVID in California: Bay Area Wastewater Samples Show Big Surge Is Under Way."

The Washington Post: "Covid hospitalizations rising post-Thanksgiving after an autumn lull."

CDC: "COVID-19 Data Review: Update on COVID-19-Related Mortality, How To Protect Yourself."

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