Topline

More than a third of US counties are in a Covid-19 “red” zone, indicating high levels of community transmission and hospitalization, while less than a quarter of counties are in the “green zone,” a marker of low community transmission and hospitalization levels, according to to data from the Centers for Disease Control, as the new omicron BA.5 variant continues to spread rapidly.

Key Facts

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Roughly 35.5% of US counties (1,143 counties total) have high community levels of Covid, up nearly 15% from the week before, while 40% of counties have medium community Covid community levels, a 2% increase from the week before, according to the CDC.

The number of counties with low levels of transmission and hospitalizations is also declining: 24.8% were in the “green” zone, a 16.3% decline from the week before.

The agency uses three metrics—new Covid admissions per 100,000 people in the past seven days; the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by Covid patients; and total new Covid cases per 100,000 people in the past week—to make the designation.

In some states, the large majority of counties are on high alert, including nearly 86% of counties in Florida and 75% in Louisiana.

The spike in high community Covid levels come as US coronavirus cases rise steadily, averaging 124,048 new infections per day in the week ending July 13, up 24% from daily cases reported as of June 23 and more than quadruple the 30,558 daily cases reported as of April 10, though still well below the January peak of more than 800,000 per day.

Big Number

5,851. That's how many new Covid hospital admissions the US averaged per day in the seven-day period ending July 12, up 14% from the week before and more than three times the average of 1,428 per day in early April, though numbers remain much lower than during the winter coronavirus surge, when daily hospitalizations surpassed 20,000, according to CDC data.

Tangent

Several northern states, including Maine—where 100% of counties had low Covid community levels—Michigan, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire had some of the highest percentages of counties in the Covid “green” zone.

Key Background

The highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.5 and closely-related substrain BA.4 have sparked a rise in coronavirus infections in recent weeks. The strains were first discovered earlier this year in South Africa, where they became dominant, and eventually made their way into the US in late March. By late June, BA.4 and BA.5 had become the prevailing substrains of Covid in the US together, they now make up roughly 82% of all coronavirus infections in the US as of the week ending July 9, while BA.5 on its own comprises 65% of cases, according to CDC estimates, Cases are on the rise in several other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Covid deaths in the US have remained low, however, hovering around 300 per day since April. The Food and Drug Administration is asking pharmaceutical companies to target the new BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants in a retooled Covid booster shot drug companies hope will be available in October. But CDC experts are cautioning that high-risk individuals should not wait until the fall to get the updated shot, instead urging them to get a booster as soon as possible.

What We Don't Know

Whether the spike in Covid cases could lead to new restrictions, including mask mandates. In Los Angelesfor instance, a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations has moved Los Angeles County into the red zone for Covid community levels, conditions that may lead to a new public indoor mask mandate by the end of the month if case levels don't improve.

Highly Contagious BA.5 Variant Becomes Dominant In US As Covid Cases Rise (Forbes)

Should You Get A Covid Booster? Here's Who Should—And How. (Forbes)