Latest COVID-19 variant causing infections, hospitalizations to spike

According to the Action News Data Journalism Team, COVID levels in Bucks County are 80% higher than the national level.

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Saturday, January 7, 2023
Latest COVID variant causing infections, hospitalizations to spike
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Doctors say XBB1.5 is in the omicron family, and highly transmissible.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Heading into its third year, the COVID-19 pandemic presses on with yet another variant to watch out for. Doctors say XBB1.5 is in the omicron family, and highly transmissible.

"Kids are getting infected and even some more severely infected," said Dr. Neil Rellosa, physician of Infectious Diseases with Nemours Children's Hospital.

Dr. Rellosa says they're seeing a high volume of sick pediatric patients across the Delaware Valley, including an increase in COVID infections.

Hospitalizations are spiking again among adults, too.

"This is really for the first time in six months. We had been staying in the low 200s. The latest number from Wednesday was 295 and that is a big increase," said Philadelphia's Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

Bettigole says now is not the time to let our guards down. While most people have compared COVID symptoms to a cold, severe cases are still resulting in one to two COVID deaths in Philadelphia per day.

"In November, we had 49 deaths in Philadelphia. If you want to compare that to other kinds of respiratory viruses, in a bad flu season we might see a few dozen deaths we certainly wouldn't see anything like these numbers," said Bettigole.

The numbers are becoming more difficult to track, with more people testing at home. So experts turn to wastewater testing to see a general picture of how much COVID is out there.

According to the Action News Data Journalism Team, COVID levels in Bucks County are 80% higher than the national level.

Chester County is measuring at just over 50% higher, while Montgomery county is more than 30% lower than the national level.

Bettigole says we could be facing a larger wave of infection in late January because of the holidays.

As a reminder, you can still order your free COVID tests from the federal government.