COVID-19 is trending upward in Alabama and across the country, following a pattern of summer spikes set since the virus first arrived in the U.S. in 2020.

Alabama averaged 44 hospitalizations a day in the week that ended July 29, the last date for which data is available, according to The New York Times’ compilation of statistics. That was a 94% increase from the previous two weeks.

Hospitalizations are the best gauge of virus in a community now, rather than daily cases reported, because many people conduct self-tests and many do not see a doctor unless their symptoms become extreme, so the infections are not officially reported

Since the pandemic began, COVID has spiked each summer, at a point between July and September, with an even higher spike each January. Health officials are not saying the virus will spread as much this year as in previous years, just that they’re expecting it to spike compared to recent months.

Regardless of how many people in the community fall ill with COVID, the individual who does faces the same symptoms, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe as: Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recently distributed on social media a chart with advice for keeping yourself free of COVID, or other viruses. It includes advice such as washing your hands frequently, refraining from touching your face and avoiding close contact with people who may be ill. (See chart above.)

A new version of the COVID-19 vaccine that has been updated to better target the current strains of COVID going around the U.S. is expected to be available in a few weeks, according to the ADPH.

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