“We are at a national positivity rate that is among the highest we’ve seen in this pandemic,” says Michael Taitel, Ph.D., senior director at the Walgreens’ Center of Health and Wellbeing Research.
According to the most recent testing data available from the Walgreens COVID-19 Index, which tracks current and emerging variants, the country’s current positivity rate is 37.1%. That rivals the positivity rate back in January 2022, when Omicron cases first exploded. The good news, Taitel says, is that so far there hasn’t been a corresponding uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations or deaths.
Walgreens’ percentage of BA.5 cases in the country could be higher, but Taitel says the index’s Omicron Proportion Tracker, which tracks COVID variants, needs more samples to analyze before it gets updated again. Until recently, Walgreens’ COVID-19 Index was solely powered by PCR tests conducted by Aegis Sciences Corporation. But with the increased availability of at-home COVID tests and changes in funding, among other things, the number of PCR tests administered has dropped significantly.
Nearly 65% of all of Walgreens test samples collected through July 10 were BA.5 and its sub-variants, the Walgreens COVID-19 Index shows
Looking at the “Positivity Rate by Vaccination Status” graph, Taitel makes another important observation. “The data tells me the country needs to do a better job vaccinating our children.”
The test positivity rate among unvaccinated children ages 5 to 11 far outpaces the positivity rate for those with two or more doses.
“And we know from other research that being vaccinated reduces the severity of COVID-19, so we’re leaving a portion of our population vulnerable,” Taitel says.