COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions are on the rise in the United States, trends that the Biden administration attributed to the spread of omicron subvariants known to be more transmissible than the original strain.

Cases have climbed 52% over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have climbed 31% over that period, according to tracking maintained by the New York Times. Outbreaks are most acute in the Northeast, where the prevalence of BA.2.12.1, an omicron offshoot, is growing. This omicron subvariant is believed to be about 25% more transmissible than the previously dominant BA.2, which itself is about 30% more contagious than omicron.


“We were hit with the BA.1.1 wave of infections in December, January. We saw BA.2. And now we're seeing, in a large chunk of the country, BA.2.12.1,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. “They are more contagious with more immune escape, and they are driving a lot of the increases in infection that we're seeing across the nation right now. And that is a huge challenge.”

Confirmed infections this week are up threefold from this time last month. The number of cases confirmed daily over the past seven days, which averages about 101,000, is certainly a significant undercount of total infections given the widespread use of rapid home COVID-19 tests and the fact that many people get infected and don't test for COVID-19. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated that public health authorities only know about 13% of cases in the U.S.

“Home tests are great, by the way. I've been a huge fan of home tests for the last two years. But what that means is we're clearly undercounting infections,” Jha said Wednesday.

The White House COVID-19 team advised members of the public to continue living their daily lives with caution, as the current case and hospitalization trends could continue, potentially causing a summer surge. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky did not rule out that scenario. She cited lessons from previous surges, telling reporters Wednesday that “in different waves, this travels across the country."

Still, the sustained spread of the coronavirus over the past two years has led to widespread population immunity caused by repeated exposure, history of infection, and reliable vaccinations, according to Dr. Monica Gandhi, director of the University of California, San Francisco, Bay Area Center for AIDS Research and an expert in infectious diseases.


“Each COVID-19 wave triggers mucosal immunity in the population, and transmission predictably slows, so the main factor of whether cases will increase or not this summer will be if a new subvariant arises with greater transmissibility,” Gandhi told the Washington Examiner.

While cases are up, the death rate is at its lowest point since July 2021, “likely due to increased immunity globally from both vaccination and the omicron BA.1 wave,” she added.