The dread “two red line” COVID test results are showing up at rates we haven’t seen since January, as the new FLiRT variants and a surge in travel are creating another summer increase in COVID-19 cases.

A COVID-19 case surge again? We haven’t seen a surge since December and January, the cold-weather months, and one would figure that hey, people are doing things outside because it’s summer, so less transmission. But factor in that airport and airplane travel is back at record volumes, and heat waves will often drive people indoors, so public health experts predicted a summer surge because of the new FLiRT variants. And that appears to be happening, as the Chronicle reports on a new uptick in COVID-19 cases, in the Bay Area, across California, and nearly nationwide.

Image: CDC

We should note this is pretty much a national COVID uptick. The CDC just declared that “As of June 04, 2024, we estimate that COVID-19 infections are growing or likely growing in 30 states and territories, declining or likely declining in 1 state or territory, and are stable or uncertain in 18 states and territories.”

Image: CDC

But the Chronicle adds some alarming statistics that hit closer to home. COVID hospitalizations are up 29.4% in California as of the latest data collected June 1, and California is currently seeing a 5.3% positive test rate, which is a 1.4% increase over the previous week.

And as SFGate points out, wastewater surveillance indicates that the Bay Area is seeing the highest rates of increased COVID prevalence. That publication cites data from the California Department of Public Health showing that the Bay Area “now has the most viral wastewater than anywhere else in California.”

Image: CA Department of Public Health

Though, for perspective, death rates are the most minuscule that they have been since COVID arrived on these shores. And remember, the new updated guidelines say you don’t need to isolate anymore if you aren’t showing symptoms, though certainly a mask is recommended.

So how to navigate this new landscape? The best thing you can do is get the updated COVID vaccine, which very few people have done (currently 14% of Californians, so come on, people).

“Staying up to date on vaccination is the best way to protect against severe COVID-19,” the San Francisco DPH told SFGate. “We encourage people to ask their healthcare provider or visit to find a vaccine near them.”

There will be another new vaccine that’s expected to be released in the late summer or early fall, but it will target the now-less-prevalent JN.1 variant, which is indicative of how we’re always sort of a step behind this thing.

In the meanwhile, to protect yourself and others from being affected by the latest surge: mask in crowded spaces, improve ventilation, and be attentive to washing your hands. (Remember that old thing where we'd wash our hands as long as it took to sing “Happy Birthday” in our heads? Good times.)

Related: New COVID Variants Could Mean Possible Summer Surge [SFist]

Image: John Cameron via Unsplash