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Yes, COVID cases are about 5x higher than last year

Daily COVID-19 cases are up five-fold, the 7-day moving average for hospitalizations is up slightly and deaths are down

WASHINGTON — America just commemorated its third Memorial Day in the pandemic. And while more people have returned to normal—gathering for things like barbeques and taking vacations—some on social media are reminding us that COVID isn't over.

During the holiday weekend, some people claimed that COVID cases are five times higher than last Memorial Day. We took the question to the experts to verify if that's true. 

THE QUESTION:

Are COVID cases about five times higher than this time last year?

THE SOURCES:

THE ANSWER:

   

This is true.

WHAT WE FOUND:

On May 26, 2022, the most recent data available, there were 111,994 new COVID cases nationally. Verify researchers looked back a year and compared that to May 26, 2021, when there were 23,703 new daily cases.

Year over year, COVID cases are roughly 4.7 times higher.

Now if you look specifically at May 31, 2021, Memorial Day last year, there were 9,349 new daily cases nationally. That means cases are roughly 12 times higher now.

Both our experts say daily case counts are likely an undercount because of things like at-home tests going unreported.

RELATED: No, the CDC doesn’t count positive results from at-home COVID-19 tests

“And that's one reason that the CDC and all the rest of us have been focusing on hospitalizations—those numbers are much more stable," Dr. Schaffner said. "And of course, they represent much more serious disease."

If you compare those three dates again and look at hospitalizations and deaths you get a different picture.

Hospitalizations are higher this year at about 1.12 per 100,000 people (on May 26). They were 0.92 on May 26, 2021, and 0.81 on May 31, 2021. 

As for new daily deaths, on May 26, 2022, there were 298 new daily deaths. A year ago, there were 525 new daily deaths nationally, and on Memorial Day specifically, there were 229 deaths. 

"Even if you look at the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, they might be comparable to May of 2021," Dr. Adalja said. "The thing is, hospitals aren't on edge thinking that a surge could put them underwater again, because there's so much more immunity, so many more tools that are more widely available now in May of 2022 than they were in May of 2021.”

So we can verify, yes, daily cases are up roughly five times compared to last year; hospitalizations are up slightly and deaths are about the same.

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