New wastewater surveillance report highlights need for expansion, standardization

This week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a major report about the state of wastewater surveillance for infectious diseases in the U.S. The report, written by a committee of top experts (and peer-reviewed before its release), is an extensive description of the promise and the challenges of wastewater testing.

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Looking ahead to the big COVID-19 stories of 2023

As someone who’s been reporting on COVID-19 since the beginning, a new year is a good opportunity to parse out what feels like an eternity of pandemic reporting. So this week, I reflected on the major trends and topics I hope to cover in 2023—both building on my work from prior years and taking it in new directions.

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XBB.1.5 FAQ: What you should know about the latest Omicron subvariant

XBB.1.5 is the latest Omicron subvariant to spread rapidly through the U.S. It is, of course, more transmissible and more capable of evading immunity from past infections than other versions of Omicron that have gone before it, as this lineage continues mutating. Scientists are still learning about XBB.1.5; it emerged from the U.S. during the holiday season, which has posed surveillance challenges. But we know enough to say that this variant is bad news for an already overstretched healthcare system.

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New CDC report vastly underestimates deaths with Long COVID

On Wednesday, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NHCS) released a major report on deaths from Long COVID. To identify a small (but significant) number of deaths, NCHS researchers searched through the text of death certificates for Long COVID-related terms. Their study demonstrates how bad our current health data systems are at capturing the results of chronic disease.

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New opportunity for science-curious journalists

The Open Notebook has launched a new community program, called the Covering Science Slack, which could be a great opportunity for some journalist readers of the COVID-19 Data Dispatch. In this Slack server, general assignment and local journalists who are interested in improving their science reporting skills engage in discussions with experienced science journalists, who serve as mentors.

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National numbers, January 15

Last week, I wrote that a combination of holiday travel/gatherings and the latest Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, was driving a winter surge. This week, COVID-19 metrics suggest that the surge may have peaked, though we’ll need more data to say for sure—and XBB.1.5 remains a concern.

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