Summer Uptick in COVID-19 Cases Driven by New Variants and Increased Travel in California

COVID-19 markers in California have begun their expected summer uptick, driven by increased travel, indoor activities due to the heat, and new coronavirus variants collectively known as FLiRT.

These factors prompted a nearly 30% rise in COVID-19-related emergency room visits in California in the last week of May — the most recent reported time period — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state’s test positivity rate has risen to 5.3% as of a week ago, up 1.4 percentage points from the previous week, according to the California Department of Public Health. A rate above 5% suggests the virus may be spreading. According to SF Chronicle

Wastewater data from Bay Area sewer sheds — the most reliable indicator of viral presence in the community — currently shows medium or high levels of SARS-CoV-2 at 10 of 12 sites tracked by the Chronicle, including in San Francisco, Marin, Solano, and Santa Clara counties, with sharp upticks from recent lows.

The FLiRT variants — KP.3, KP.2, and KP.1.1 — now account for nearly half of all infections in the U.S., surpassing the previously dominant JN.1 strain, according to the latest CDC data.

California joins 30 other states experiencing rising COVID-19 numbers, with the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker showing national test positivity at 4.5% and a 16.2% nationwide increase in emergency department visits diagnosed with COVID-19 compared to the previous week. However, hospitalization and death rates remain low. as reported by MSN

Reminders as COVID-19 Cases Rise

Recognizing Symptoms The FLiRT variants might be more infectious as immunity from past illness or vaccination wanes, though they do not appear to cause more severe illness. Symptoms include sneezing, congestion, headaches, sore muscles, nausea, and exhaustion. While vaccination or past infection usually leads to milder symptoms, intense cases can still occur. Testing is crucial to distinguish COVID-19 from other similar infections.

When and How to Test Experts recommend home testing immediately upon developing symptoms or after exposure, and retesting 1-2 days later. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration advise repeat testing following a negative home test to reduce the risk of false negatives and prevent virus spread. A laboratory test is usually not required unless you need proof of your status.

Isolation Guidelines Per updated guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC, individuals testing positive for COVID-19 are no longer required to isolate for five days in all instances. Those with mild and improving symptoms and who are free of fever for 24 hours without medication can resume regular activities while wearing a mask and avoiding crowded indoor spaces for at least five days. These guidelines also apply to other respiratory viruses like influenza and RSV.

Treatment Options Most people with mild COVID-19 can recover at home using over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Individuals aged 12 and older at risk of severe illness can take Paxlovid within five days of symptom onset. Antivirals remdesivir and molnupiravir are also available for severe cases. told by CBS News

Preventive Measures The CDC urges everyone eligible to keep their COVID-19 vaccinations current to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Moderately or severely immunocompromised people and those aged 65 and older may receive additional vaccine doses. The FDA has directed an update for the next vaccine round to target the JN.1 variant, expected by late summer or early fall.

Following familiar preventive measures — hand washing, avoiding sick individuals, improving ventilation, monitoring community transmission levels, and wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces — continues to reduce transmission effectively.