Morning RX: August 8, 2023


Omicron EG.5 COVID-19 variant takes hold in the US, new inclusive blood donation guidance goes into effect, and the national uninsured rate reaches a new all-time low.

EG.5 COVID-19 Variant Now Accounts for Largest Proportion of New Infections

The CDC estimates that the Omicron EG.5 variant now accounts for the largest proportion of new COVID-19 infections across the United States, CBS News reported. According to the latest data from the public health agency, over 17% of COVID-19 cases in the country were caused by the variant—a 7.5% increase from the first week of July. The EG.5 variant, which includes a subvariant called EG.5.1, is one of the fastest growing in the world due to a beneficial mutation that allows it to outcompete other variants.

"While the emergency of COVID has been lifted and we're no longer in a crisis phase, the threat of COVID is not gone,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for COVID-19, said in a statement last month. “Keeping up with surveillance and sequencing remains absolutely critical.”

More Inclusive Blood Donation Guidance Goes Into Effect

In May, the FDA finalized recommendations for assessing blood donor eligibility that aim to be more inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. The updated guidance, which eliminates previous eligibility criteria based on sexual orientation, went into effect on Monday. Under the new policy, all prospective blood donors will answer the same series of individual, risk-based questions to determine eligibility. The FDA hopes that the updated policy will expand the number of people eligible to donate blood.

“The Red Cross is committed to achieving an inclusive blood donation process that treats all potential donors with equality and respect, and ensures a safe, sufficient blood supply is readily available for patients in need,” the Red Cross said in a statement. “This historic change in approach to donor eligibility is significant progress, resulting in a blood donation process that is more inclusive than ever before.”

Number of Uninsured in US Reaches All-Time Low

The national uninsured rate reached an all-time low in the early part of 2023, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. The rate for all ages is now 7.7%, with approximately 6.3 million people having gained coverage since 2020. Among adults ages 18-64, uninsured rates declined from 14.5% in late 2020 to 11.0% in early 2023. The largest change was seen in individuals with incomes below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level, as well as incomes between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level.

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