Covid Hospitalizations And Deaths See Double-Digit Spike After Holiday — Amid Surge In Respiratory Illnesses

Published 4 months ago
By Forbes | Arianna Johnson
(Photo by BECHIR TAIEB / AFP) (Photo by BECHIR TAIEB/AFP via Getty Images)


Hospitalizations for Covid spiked 20% in the week after Christmas, according to new data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with an increase in Covid deaths, and flu hospitalizations and deaths, solidifying what experts predicted to be a “severe” season for respiratory illnesses as Americans traveled and gathered for holiday celebrations.


There were 34,798 Covid-related hospitalizations during the holiday week ending in Dec. 30, 2023, a 20.4% increase from the week prior, according to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid-related deaths were up 12.5% during this period, with the highest concentrations in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Missouri and Oklahoma.


New Omicron Covid variant JN.1 made up 61.6% of all Covid cases in the two-week period between Dec. 24, 2023 and January 6, up 22.8% from the previous two-week period.

There were 39 states with high or very high levels for respiratory illness, including Covid, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus—this is up from 34 states the previous week.

Flu cases increased by 17.5%, and there were 20,066 flu-related hospitalizations, up over 5% from the previous week, according to the CDC.


Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles warned in November 2023 that experts were preparing for an intense tripledemic holiday season. “It’s going to be a severe respiratory virus season,” associate director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai, said in a statement. The tripledemic is a simultaneous rise in Covid, flu and RSV cases, which typically peaks during the winter season each year. Because of an uptick in respiratory illness-related hospitalizations, several healthcare systems across the country have reinstated mask mandates. Healthcare facilities in New York City began requiring masks for all patients, visitors and staff earlier this week. After the Illinois Department of Public advised hospitals to increase their mitigation efforts in December, several hospitals reinstated mask mandates, including Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center, Cook County Health and Endeavor Health. Berkshire Health System in Massachusetts began requiring masks on Wednesday, citing a “significant increase” in local respiratory cases. After Los Angeles County entered the medium level for Covid hospitalizations last month, the county required masks in all its hospitals.



New Covid variant JN.1 has been driving an increase in Covid cases across the country as it’s been rapidly spreading. JN.1 only made up 3.3% of all Covid cases during the two-week period ending in Nov. 11, 2023, so it’s grown by almost 60% in a little over two months. The World Health Organization classified it as a “variant of interest” in December 2023, meaning it’s spreading in a way that may pose “an emerging risk to global public health.” JN.1 is an offshoot of the highly mutated Pirola (BA.2.86) strain that was spreading rapidly last fall. Some healthcare experts worried Pirola wouldn’t be protected against the updated monovalent Covid vaccines since they specifically target XBB variants. However, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer-BioNTech said their shots provided some protection. Because of how rapidly JN.1 spread, the CDC said it was the “fastest growing variant in the United States.” WHO also acknowledged JN.1’s growth, stating it made up the majority of all BA.2.86 subvariants circulating globally, though available evidence suggested it posed a low risk to public health.


Here’s Where Mask Mandates Are Coming Back As Covid Cases And Hospitalizations Rise (Forbes)