Stress on the health-care system in the form of beds occupied by COVID patients is one of the key indicators of pandemic severity at any point in time.  Throughout the pandemic, each time that a new wave has swept in, either through governments prematurely lifting social distancing restrictions or upon arrival of more infectious variants, hospitalizations have started rising a week or so after the wastewater signal.

This six-month graph reflect the April spread of BA.2 as well as the July surge of BA.5.  The summer surge was moderated by the virus’ inherent seasonality as schools being closed and people getting together outside rather than indoors provided it with fewer opportunities to spread.

Overall hospitalizations through this period have been significantly lower than during the December-January Delta peak because Omicon’s variants (including the more recent XBB lineages) have so far continued to cause fewer of the most severe cases because Omicorn preferentially infects the upper respiratory track whereas Delta settled deep into its victims’ lungs. As well, both vaccination and prior infection continue to moderate symptoms even when they no longer suffice to prevent transmission.

With the spread of XBB, which  which infects even those who suffered earlier Omicron infections, coupled with the maskless opening of schools and general shift indoors, the significant Fall surge in hospitalizations was entirely predictable.