As cases of COVID-19 start to spike again, hospitals across the country are reinstating their mask mandates.
Hospitals from California to Massachusetts have brought back requirements for staff — and in some cases, visitors and anyone else in the facility — to wear masks. Hospitals say the cause is increasing COVID cases among its staff or within the communities they serve.
In the U.S. right now, the majority of COVID infections are with the Omicron variant called XBB.1.5. The CDC is also tracking a new, highly mutated strain called BA.2.86, which it says may be more likely to cause infection in people who have already had COVID-19, or who have been vaccinated against it.
Nationwide positive tests for COVID hover at around 13% in the last week. The South has been the most active region in that time frame, with an 18% positivity rate.
Hospitalizations have started to trend up again from their most recent low point in June, according to the CDC. Week over week, admissions have increased more than 18% nationwide. As of Aug. 19, there had been more than 15,000 new hospital admissions.
President Biden says he is requesting more funding from Congress to develop updated vaccines to protect against the latest strains.
A new version of the vaccine is already expected, which will target the currently-dominant XBB.1.5. It will require approval from the FDA, and a recommendation for distribution from the CDC.
Officials hope it will be available in September, and say annual COVID boosters around the same time each year will likely become typical.
President Biden told reporters it was "tentatively" recommended that everyone receive a booster for XBB.1.5.
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