Respiratory viruses rise nationwide, COVID-19 cases in Minnesota spike

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of a rise in respiratory virus activity following the holidays, as influenza, COVID-19 and RSV cases surge nationwide.

Nationally, COVID-19 remains the biggest driver of serious respiratory viruses. According to the CDC, emergency room visits are up 12% and hospitalizations jumped about 17% in the past week, driven largely by the new JN.1 strain of the virus which is thought to be more contagious than previous variants.

Waste water data shows a huge increase in COVID-19 cases in Minnesota in the week leading up to Christmas, as medical experts warn holiday gatherings may ramp up infection rates.

"We know there’s a risk of an increased viral surge in the coming weeks that will be reflective of our holiday season," Dr. Madeleine Gagnon of Gillette Children’s told FOX 9.

Nationally, the CDC is warning of elevated influenza levels in most parts of the country as weekly hospital admissions continue to increase.

Dr. Gagnon says the good news for Minnesota is that virus activity is trending much lower than last year, as flu hospitalizations statewide are down significantly from this time last year.

"I’m reassured by our flu curve in particular," said Gagnon. "Comparative to last year and pre-pandemic times for influenza and other viral illnesses are lower than they’ve been in previous years and I think that’s re-assuring."

Medical professionals say mitigation efforts such as frequent handwashing and staying home when you are sick are key to reducing spread.