CDC updates respiratory virus guidance, Part Two: Show me the science!  

If you’re someone who likes understanding the why behind updated guidance, CDC has issued an explainer for its changes to respiratory virus recommendations.

The agency released a long background document that explains the decision-making behind the updated guidance. It walks readers through the data that experts consulted.

RHHD’s Data Team found this graph, shared as part of the background research, especially important for understanding the updated guidance. The graph comes from the Respiratory Virus Hospitalization Surveillance Network (RESP-NET) and shows weekly new hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19, influenza, and RSV:

RHHD Deputy Director Dr. Melissa Viray offers some insights into what she sees in this graph:

  • Year over year, we are seeing fewer hospitalizations with COVID-19. We are also seeing decreases in deaths with COVID-19 (although that’s not shown in this graph!). Our population has more overall immunity from infection, vaccination, or both, and we have tools like vaccination and treatment that we didn’t have before.
  • We can also see here that hospitalizations with influenza and RSV are contributing more to the overall hospitalization burden for respiratory viruses, even as overall rates are decreasing. This is an important reminder that flu and RSV can also result in serious illness, emergency visits, or deaths, especially for children and people over 65 years old. Updated respiratory illness guidance also highlights the steps we can take to protect against those viral illnesses.
  • COVID-19 has not disappeared. That’s why we need to use our powerful protective tools—like vaccines, which you can find at, or treatments, which are available for free through Home Test to Treat. These tools help reduce the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses.

Other preliminary data shared by CDC show that the majority of adults hospitalized in October–November 2023 with COVID-19 had not received the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine or the previous bivalent booster. Dr. Viray encourages residents to schedule a vaccine today if they have not gotten the updated vaccine, saying, “We’ve learned things about immunization, ventilation, and hygiene that we should take with us into respiratory illness season every year.”