12/23/22 – Weekly Health Update

CHAP’s Weekly Health Update
In this “one-stop-shop” update, CHAP will provide a roundup of important COVID-19, Flu, and other information from various federal sources.

All health care providers should be monitoring COVID-19 incidence rates in their state/county on an ongoing basis.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC provides weekly data about case rates, deaths, testing, and vaccine administration on their COVID tracker webpage.


COVID-19 Variants by Region & Map Key

Seasonal Flu Data – Note the state in dark blue and red that have very high flu rates at this time. Please take proper infection control actions in these areas.


CDC and Other Federal Health Updates

FDA to Hold Advisory Committee Meeting to Discuss Future Vaccination Regimens Addressing COVID-19 (12/16/22)
On Jan. 26, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) to consider whether and how the composition for primary doses of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines should be modified and how and whether the composition and schedule for booster doses should be adjusted moving forward. The agency is planning to examine the state of the pandemic, the evolution of variants and subvariants, and the available effectiveness, safety and immunogenicity data with the current monovalent and bivalent vaccines. The agency will also consider the potential composition of the current and next generation of COVID-19 vaccines for primary and booster immunization.


Letter to U.S. Governors from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on COVID-19 Resources (12/15/22)
I’m writing today to reiterate the federal government’s ongoing commitment to supporting your efforts, and to remind you of the existing available resources to help you manage the winter ahead.


BF.7: What to know about the Omicron COVID variant (12/20/22)
Since the COVID variant Omicron emerged in late 2021, it has rapidly evolved into multiple subvariants. One subvariant, BF.7, has recently been identified as the main variant spreading in Beijing, and is contributing to a wider surge of COVID infections in China.

Reports from China indicate BF.7 has the strongest infection ability out of the Omicron subvariants in the country, being quicker to transmit than other variants, having a shorter incubation period, and with greater capacity to infect people who have had a previous COVID infection, or been vaccinated, or both. The high transmission rate of BF.7, taken with the risk of hidden spread due to the many asymptomatic carriers, is understood to be causing significant difficulty in controlling the epidemic in China.

The symptoms of an infection with BF.7 are similar to those associated with other Omicron subvariants, primarily upper respiratory symptoms. Patients may have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and fatigue, among other symptoms. A minority of people can also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.


3 subvariants expand their dominance to 76% of cases: 10 CDC notes (12/16/22)
Based on projections for the week ending Dec. 17, the CDC estimates that BQ.1.1 accounts for 38.4 percent of cases and BQ.1 accounts for 30.7 percent of cases nationally. Infections caused by BA.5 continue to slim down as XBB slightly grows to 7.2 percent of cases. Eight other omicron subvariants tracked by the CDC account for the rest.

  • Cases – As of Dec. 14, the current seven-day average is 65,067, which is down from the 67,034 seven-day average from the previous week.
  • Hospitalizations – The current seven-day daily average for new hospital admissions was 5,010, which is a 2.3 percent increase from the previous week.


You can order free COVID tests again by mail (12/15/22)
Americans can order four more free COVID-19 tests through the mail, starting on Thursday. It’s part of the Biden administration’s plan to deal with an increase in COVID cases sparked by indoor holiday gatherings.

The tests can be ordered on COVIDtests.gov and will start to ship the week of Dec. 19, a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call. The government is urging people to test themselves when they have symptoms, and before visiting with family.

It’s the fourth round of free rapid tests this year.


Long covid can be deadly, CDC study finds (12/14/22)
A study released Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics found that more than 3,500 Americans died of long-covid-related illness in the first 2½ years of the pandemic.

While those deaths represent a small fraction of the 1 million deaths from the coronavirus, they reinforce the danger of ignoring the lingering symptoms that many patients say their physicians have dismissed.

While CDC data show that women are more likely than men to develop long covid, the study found that men accounted for a slightly higher percentage of long-covid deaths. Most of the documented long-covid deaths occurred in older people, with adults between 75 and 84 years old accounting for almost 30 percent of the deaths, closely followed by adults 85 and older.


Flu activity remains high but shows signs of slowing in parts of the US, CDC says (12/16/22)
For the first time this season, flu hospitalizations have dropped week-over-week. The week after Thanksgiving was the season’s worst yet, but data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that flu hospitalizations fell 10% in the week after that.

Still, flu activity remains high nationwide, and this is not a sign that flu has peaked. Like last week, all but seven states continue to have “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity, according to the CDC.

As of December 10, the CDC estimates that there have been at least 15 million illnesses, 150,000 hospitalizations and 9,300 deaths from flu this season.

This season’s cumulative hospitalization rate is higher than it’s been in more than a decade. And even with the signs of improvement, millions more were infected last week, and thousands died.

Health leaders continue to emphasize the importance of vaccination, especially as Covid-19 ramps up again and the strain on hospitals persists.