COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in New York as BQ.1 spreads

Health experts are carefully watching COVID-19 trends in New York amid signs the nation will face a winter surge. The state has seen an increase in hospitalizations over the last month. 

Statewide, the daily average for COVID-19 hospitalizations is up 15 percent over the last two weeks, according to HHS data compiled by The New York Times. As of Oct. 20, an average of 3,095 people were hospitalized in New York. On Oct. 2, that figure was 2,614. 

The increase in hospitalization rates comes as a pair of omicron relatives dubbed "escape variants" gain prevalence nationwide. The strains — BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 — are most prevalent in New York and New Jersey, where they account for nearly 30 percent of new infections, according to CDC estimates for the week ending Oct. 22. BQ.1's rising prevalence may be driving the jump in hospitalizations, but scientists say it's still too early to confirm a causal relationship. 

While hospitalizations appear to be trending upward in New York, cases have remained relatively flat throughout the month. This discrepancy highlights the difficulty of monitoring virus activity in an era of unreliable case data and a departure from daily reporting cadences. 

As of Oct. 20, the nation's daily average for COVID-19 hospitalizations was 26,669, down 2 percent in the last 14 days. However, 20 states have seen hospitalization rates increase over the last two weeks, with increases ranging from just 1 percent (in Maine, Illinois and Connecticut) to as high as 30 percent (in New Hampshire). 


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