(WXYZ) — COVID case numbers have changed very little over the last two weeks, but experts say cases are significantly undercounted and incomplete data could be masking an upward trend.
Experts tracking cases say they are in fact being undercounted. And there are a couple of reasons for that.
One, people with milder symptoms may mistake the infection as a cold and think it's not important to get tested. Secondly, Americans have access to home tests. And a good chunk of those results are not being reported to health departments. So it's become harder to know for sure how prevalent COVID is right now in our communities.
But despite the fact that case counts are not as reliable as they've been in the past, they are still useful. 26 states are seeing rising case numbers, with a few reporting spikes. Nebraska is up almost 80%, Arizona is up 75%, and New York 58%.
To me, it's important that people are aware that we are not catching every infected person and numbers are likely higher than what's being reported.
We have to remember that even when case numbers are low, there is no guarantee that a person would not get infected. Omicron's subvariant BA.2 is highly contagious and now accounts for 72% of cases here in the US. People need to assume that it can be anywhere.
But there are a couple of things people can do to assess risk.
One is to keep an eye on hospitalization numbers. Just remember, that hospitalization numbers lag behind cases.
Secondly, you can visit the COVID-19 Community Level map on the CDC website. You enter a state and county and the site calculates the community risk - using case counts and hospital admissions - and tells you if your risk is low, medium, or high.
Lastly - and likely the most important thing you can do - is to assess your own personal risk and those who live with you. The people most at risk are those who are immunocompromised, and children under the age of 5 because they are not yet eligible to get vaccinated.
However, the CDC also points out that older age and certain underlying medical conditions are associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19. For example, diabetes, heart conditions, kidney and liver disease, and obesity to name just a few.
So please, if you or your loved one is at risk, do not take chances. The virus is not vanishing. We will quite likely continue to see surges. And they may be harder to detect due to milder symptoms for some folks, and home rapid tests.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.