AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting an uptick in hospitalizations nationwide related to a new strain of COVID-19 — and Austin Public Health are seeing similar upticks in case counts locally.

Between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker tool reported a 21.6% increase in hospitalizations throughout the United States. It comes as the latest COVID-19 strain Eris — more formally referred to as EG. 5 — emerged earlier this summer and became the dominant virus strain infecting people.

What are local COVID-19 levels looking like in Austin?

Janet Pichette serves as Austin Public Health’s chief epidemiologist. Since last week, she said APH has seen a 33% increase in the number of positive COVID-19 laboratory tests reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

However, that doesn’t represent the true scope of infections happening in the greater Austin community, she said.

“People are doing self-testing, or they’re not testing at all. And so that number of true positive cases is probably underrepresented in our community,” she said.

While it’s not required to submit at-home test results, APH has an online system where residents can report whether they’ve received a positive test result through an at-home kit.

How is APH tracking COVID-19 cases since the end of the COVID-19 local, state and federal emergency declarations?

In the months since, Pichette said APH has relied even more heavily on its wastewater surveillance information, which shows COVID-19 viral load in the community. Despite increases in self-testing use, wastewater testing can more accurately indicate the true scale of community spread throughout the greater Austin area.

Despite federal, state and local COVID-19 emergency declarations ending in May, Texas still classifies COVID-19 as a reportable condition in Texas. That means hospitals, clinicians, clinics and laboratories must report positive laboratory results to local health departments, who then deliver those findings to Texas DSHS.

“We already started the week off with a high number of positive labs coming in this week,” she said. “So we’ll see how things continue to shake out over the week as we go, but I imagine we’ll probably have a pretty high number of cases reported to us.”

Summer case upticks has been a trend since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Pichette said. Particularly after an extensive summer heat wave of consecutive triple-digit days and back-to-school season, she said it isn’t surprising cases are increasing.

New COVID-19 booster could be approved as soon as mid-September

Pichette said families can and should remain vigilant in getting up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, as well as seek out a flu shot to protect themselves from other respiratory conditions during the fall and winter.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to clear an updated COVID-19 vaccine booster next month. A CDC vaccine advisory panel is scheduled to meet Sept. 12 to consider whether or not to recommend the updated vaccines, per NBC News reporting.

Symptoms from the Eris strain are similar to the omicron variants floating around in recent years. Pichette said many of the symptoms are upper respiratory ones, such as congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and related cold-like symptoms.

“A lot of times people think, ‘oh, I think I have allergies,'” Pichette said. “The famous last words ‘I think I have allergies’ on numerous occasions have ended up being a COVID positive result.”