National numbers, January 23

Has Omicron peaked in the U.S.? Nationally, it seems possible, but the situation is more complicated at the state and local level. Chart via the CDC, retrieved on January 23.

In the past week (January 15 through 21), the U.S. reported about 5.2 million new cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 745,000 new cases each day
  • 1,588 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • One in 63 Americans testing positive for COVID-19
  • 5% fewer new cases than last week (January 8-14)

Last week, America also saw:

  • 147,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals (45 for every 100,000 people)
  • 12,200 new COVID-19 deaths (3.7 for every 100,000 people)
  • 100% of new cases are Omicron-caused (as of January 15)
  • An average of 300,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

Has Omicron peaked in the U.S.? Looking at the national data, you might think so: new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have dropped 5% from 5.5 million last week to 5.2 million this past week. While those numbers are astronomically high compared to past pandemic waves, it’s encouraging to think that they might not get higher.

Hospitalization data also seem to have reached a peak; while about 150,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the HHS, this number is no longer rapidly increasing. Patient numbers are starting to decline in the states and cities that were first hit by Omicron.

It’s too soon to say that we’re actually coming down on the other side of the Omicron curve, though. For one thing, as Dr. Katelyn Jetelina pointed out in a recent issue of Your Local Epidemiologist, holiday reporting and test capacity could be playing a role here.

Last Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday that many health agencies and test providers took off—though not a holiday on the reporting disruption level of Christmas or New Year’s. And tests are incredibly hard to find in some parts of the country, meaning that our current system simply isn’t catching a large number of COVID-19 cases. (Remember: most COVID-19 case counts do not include cases identified with at-home antigen tests.) In short, the current trend is encouraging, but we’ll have to see next week if it continues.

While the national picture is hard to interpret, it’s clear that the Northeast states that dealt with Omicron first are now on the decline. In New York City, the case rate has been reduced by over a third, from 3,500 new cases per 100,000 in a week at the beginning of January to 1,000 new cases per 100,000 in the last week. Case rates are also going down in New Jersey, Maryland, D.C., Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

At the same time, other parts of the country are still in the first half of their Omicron surges. Cases rose by over 40% from last week to this week in Wisconsin, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Idaho, Ohio, and New Mexico, according to the latest Community Profile Report. In fact, Wisconsin now has one of the highest per capita case rates in the country, at 2,800 new cases per 100,000 in the week ending January 19.

A recent NBC News article explains that the urban regions first exposed to Omicron have higher vaccination rates and more available hospital beds, making them more prepared to weather the variant. But now, Omicron is beginning to reach rural parts of the country that are less vaccinated, less capable of taking on patients, and still reeling from Delta. For these communities, the next few weeks are bound to be rough.

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