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COVID hospitalizations climb 22% this week — and the CDC predicts further increases as new variants spread

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now forecasting an acceleration in new COVID-19 hospitalizations over the coming month, the agency said this week, replacing a previous projection that admissions would “remain stable or have an uncertain trend.”

It comes as health officials are racing to study a new highly mutated COVID variant called BA.2.86, nicknamed “Pirola” on social media, that has begun to emerge around the world.

While officials say it is too early to know whether the strain will drive a further surge in COVID hospitalizations, the variant’s broad number of mutations has prompted worldwide scrutiny.

Existing COVID-19 tests and medications “appear to be effective with this variant,” the CDC said in a risk assessment published Wednesday, and updated vaccines scheduled to be rolled out next month are expected to “be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization” from BA.2.86.

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