And the fact that there's more infections is why? Is that a new type of COVID that's breaking through or what is it?
Yeah, it could be a couple of things. I mean, we've seen COVID rise in summer and winter before.
And with the summer in particular, when it's really hot out and you have people traveling on vacation, doing international trips, going to weddings, it's just more opportunities for more people to be in the same room together and then to spread COVID.
We are also seeing a new variant that's on the rise. That's EG.5.
There is a fast-spreading new subvariant of the coronavirus that's raising concerns among health officials around the world.
The CDC says the EG.5 variant, otherwise known as Eris, now makes up the largest portion of new COVID-19 infections nationwide.
So, for most of 2023, we've had this lineage of variants called XBB and its various versions. That's made up most infections.
But now we're seeing about 20% of new cases are estimated to be linked to EG.5.
They're all part of the Omicron family.
But when you have something new like EG.5, there's evidence that it's more adept at overcoming immunity that we've been developing through past vaccination through our past infections.
So that's something that scientists are looking at right now.
But the good news is, there's no evidence that suggests that EG.5 is making people any sicker than the Omicron descendants that came before it.
But it might be contributing to this rise in transmission.
So, Fenit, the government is no longer mailing people free tests, and a lot of insurance companies are not covering it. So how should people think about testing?
I think this is one of the starkest examples of the consequence of ending the public-health emergency, because now it's much harder to get tested for COVID or it's a much more of a financial burden,
because now every time you have a cough or a sniffle or every time you are in the same room as someone who later tested positive for COVID, you have to decide, "Is it worth the $10 to $15 per test to test myself for COVID?"
And particularly if you have to test multiple times over a whole week and particularly for parents of small kids, those costs can add up when you have a big family that all needs to be tested, too.
So, in terms of, like, how people should navigate this one, there are free tests that are still out there.
You can check with your local government. You can check with your employer or your doctor's office to see if any of them are still giving out free tests.
If you're a lower-income person, a lot of federally qualified health centers are still distributing free tests, as well.
And Medicaid is covering the cost of over-the-counter tests until fall 2024.
And then, in terms of when should you get tests, this is a tricky one, because I haven't really seen clear guidance coming out of the federal government on, "What are the parameters for getting tested?"
I do think if you have symptoms and if you've had a known exposure, that is probably one of the biggest triggers for getting tested.
And, also, if you are someone over the age of 65 or if you fall in a high-risk group, where you would benefit from getting on antivirals to prevent the progression of coronavirus into severe illness.
It's worth getting tested early on, because antivirals are best administered in the early days of disease.