The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is rising this summer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hospitalizations of people with the virus are up 10%, per CDC data — the sharpest increase since December 2022.
More than 7,100 patients with COVID were hospitalized in the week of July 15, up from 6,444 the prior week.
COVID-related emergency room visits are also on the rise, comprising 0.73% of visits as of July 21, compared to 0.49% a month prior.
"After roughly six, seven months of steady declines, things are starting to tick back up again," Dr. Brendan Jackson, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager in Atlanta, Georgia, told NPR this week.
"We've seen the early indicators go up for the past several weeks," he continued.
"And just this week, for the first time in a long time, we've seen hospitalizations tick up as well."
He added, "This could be the start of a late summer wave."
The spikes have been most prominent in the Southeast, Jackson said.
"Early indicators of COVID-19 activity (emergency department visits, test positivity and wastewater levels) preceded an increase in hospitalizations seen this past week," CDC spokesperson Kathleen Conley said in a statement.
Despite the uptick, she confirmed that COVID rates are still at "near-historic lows" in the U.S.
Overall, COVID deaths continue to decline.
They're now at the lowest rate since the CDC started keeping track, according to Jackson.
The surge in summer cases doesn’t mean the CDC plans to recommend a return to masking, he said.
More concerning are the "mutagenic" subvariants emerging in Asia, the doctor said.
"For most people, these early signs don't need to mean much," Jackson said.
Dr. Marc Siegel, professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, is skeptical that a summer surge is underway.
"Ordinarily, I would pay careful attention to wastewater analysis, but given the amount of immunity still around from prior infection and vaccination — coupled with the fact that we are still within the Omicron family with most infections remaining mild and hospitalizations showing only a slight uptick — I don't see this as a harbinger of another surge," he told Fox News Digital.
"These are just embers of a fire not completely out."
More concerning to Siegel are the "mutagenic" subvariants emerging in Asia, the doctor said.
As a result, said Siegel, "I am likely going to recommend the new XBB subvariant booster in the fall, especially for those in high-risk groups who haven't had a recent infection or vaccine."