California is experiencing much the same summer COVID upturn as the rest of the nation, and there’s some evidence that the symptoms of the new virus variants now include gastrointestinal issues too.

Just one month after California COVID-19 hospitalizations hit an all-time low in early April, the new COVID variants started a summer mini-surge just a month later, powered mostly by the KP.2 and KP.1.1 variants colloquially referred to as FLiRT. That mini-surge has continued, and the latest state data shows a 20% increase in emergency room visits compared to the previous week, and a test positivity rate of 10.6%, which more than double that of the previous month.

This is fairly consistent with what the CDC is seeing nationwide. But a new a report in the Chronicle shows that there may be new symptoms for those infected with these FLiRT variant infections, and some people feel they’re sicker than COVID has ever made them.

“The dogma is that every time you get COVID, it’s milder,” UCSF infectious diseases specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told the LA Times. “But I think we need to keep our minds open to the possibility that some people have worse symptoms.”

He added that each time one gets reinfected, it’s “kind of like playing COVID roulette.” That Times piece also quotes a number of social media posts of people saying that this time around COVID was making them sicker than ever. That’s hardly scientific, but indicates we may be seeing a trend.

Per the Chronicle’s report, Chin-Hong and his UCSF colleagues are noticing fewer COVID patients experiencing the shortness of breath and loss of sense of smell and taste than earlier in the pandemic. But more COVID patients sick with the newer variant are reporting gastrointestinal issues.

Death rates still remain quite very low according to state data, with only 0.5% of California COVID deaths attributed to COVID in the last week of June (in January it was 3.4%). Though wastewater tests are showing higher volumes of COVID, and hospitalizations are on the rise nationwide.

It is expected that there will be yet another new update COVID vaccine available in August or September, to address these new variants. But if you haven't received the updated vaccine that was released at the end of 2023, here’s where you can get that vaccine in SF or around the Bay Area. You're supposed to wait four months between vaccine doses, so bear that in mind in deciding whether to wait for the updated version.

Related: COVID Outbreak at SF County Jail, More Than 40 Prisoners Infected [SFist]

Image: Close up positive show result of covid infected show on nasal rapid self test kit at home (Getty Images)