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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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BA.5 leads to COVID-19 hospitalizations doubling since May

COVID-19 hospital
Posted at 3:59 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 17:17:33-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Since May, COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled. The increase is driven by omicron's BA.5 subvariant that is now sweeping the country.

Right now, health experts do not think BA.5 is associated with greater disease severity or hospitalizations than other recent subvariants. Even though the seven-day average of hospital admissions is currently just over 5,100 per day, which is double the figures we had back in May.

However, BA.5 appears to be more transmissible and more immune-evading than previous strains. It's now responsible for 65% of new infections in the U.S. and case numbers are high in the West, the Southeast, and some areas in the Northeast.

Unfortunately, hospitals across the country are bracing, yet again, for another surge of patients seeking medical help for COVID-19. Including, here in Michigan. Hospital admissions in Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland counties have risen 13% in the last seven days. And case numbers have increased by almost 34% over the previous three weeks for Michigan.

There are several reasons why hospitalizations are rising. The variants are changing so much, people's immune systems are having a harder time fighting off the newer variants. Overall, there are more people who can get sick now. It used to be that if a person was infected, they had a 90-day period where they were protected against reinfection. But now, new research indicates that people can get reinfected roughly 4 weeks later with another variant.

Also, not enough people are getting boosted. Only 49.5% of those eligible have received their first booster dose. For people aged 50 and older who can get a second booster, only 28% have done so. So it's no surprise that immunity is waning in a lot of people. And this opens the door to more breakthrough infections.

Furthermore, COVID fatigue is leading to bad decisions. And some people are taking more risks and not masking up or taking precautions when they should.

On the positive side, intensive care numbers are not rising alongside hospitalizations. And that could be because doctors now have some really good tools to treat Covid. Hospitalized patients can be treated with the antiviral Remdesivir, steroids, and oxygen support if needed. There are also anti-inflammatory drugs like Baricitinib or Tocilizumab that can be prescribed in some cases.

We could see intensive care numbers rise as BA.5 continues to spread and more vulnerable people get infected. So again, please get fully vaccinated and boosted when you're eligible. And you'll be less likely to be hospitalized than the folks who are unvaccinated.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.