National numbers, February 27

COVID-19 metrics are dropping across the board. Chart via Conor Kelly, posted on Twitter on February 23.

In the past week (February 19 through 25), the U.S. reported about 526,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 75,000 new cases each day
  • 160 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 38% fewer new cases than last week (February 12-18)

Last week, America also saw:

  • 42,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals (13 for every 100,000 people)
  • 12,000 new COVID-19 deaths (3.6 for every 100,000 people)
  • 100% of new cases are Omicron-caused (as of February 19)
  • An average of 200,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

The U.S. is now on week six of falling COVID-19 case numbers nationwide. New cases fell 38% from last week to this week, and are down 87% from one month ago. This is also the first week that the country has reported a daily new case average under 100,000 since early December.

Hospitalizations also continue to fall, with about 30% fewer new COVID-19 patients entering U.S. hospitals this week compared to last week. And death numbers have also begun to come down—though they are still high, with over 1,500 people dying of COVID-19 each day.

Case numbers are falling in every single U.S. state; five states and D.C. reported fewer than 100 new cases for every 100,000 residents in the past week, according to the latest Community Profile Report: Washington, Nebraska, Maryland, Nevada, and Ohio. Last week, Maryland was the first state to report case numbers below the CDC’s old high transmission threshold. (The new threshold is higher, which I’ll get into later this issue.)

To quote prolific COVID-19 data commentator (and my former COVID Tracking Project colleague) Conor Kelly, whose chart is featured above: “There’s not all that much interesting to report on with COVID data right now. Things are getting better fast everywhere. It’s just a question of how long it continues.”

That continuation depends largely on variants. As the Omicron surge recedes, how long will we see these decreases (or a plateau at low numbers) before a new variant drives another surge? 

One key factor here is BA.2, the Omicron sub-lineage that has been slowly gaining ground in the U.S. over the past month as it is more transmissible than original Omicron. And I do mean slowly: according to CDC estimates, BA.2 went from causing an estimated 2% of new cases in the week ending February 12 to 4% in the week ending February 19. It seems to be having a limited impact on the country’s case decrease right now, but we’ll see if that changes in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, America’s vaccination campaign is stalling. According to the Associated Press: “The average number of Americans getting their first shot is down to about 90,000 a day, the lowest point since the first few days of the U.S. vaccination campaign, in December 2020.” More investment into reaching people who remain unvaccinated (and unboosted) is necessary if we want to be prepared for potential future surges.

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