National numbers, March 20

COVID-19 case rates are still going down across the country, but it’s unclear how long this lull between surges will last. Chart via the March 17 Community Profile Report.

In the past week (March 12 through 18), the U.S. reported about 210,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 30,000 new cases each day
  • 64 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 17% fewer new cases than last week (March 5-11)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 16,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 2,300 new admissions each day
  • 4.9 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 27% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 7,400 new COVID-19 deaths (2.2 for every 100,000 people)
  • 100% of new cases are Omicron-caused; 23% BA.2-caused (as of March 12)
  • An average of 100,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

National COVID-19 case numbers are still falling, as we reach two months since the peak of the Omicron surge. The U.S. reported about 30,000 new cases each day last week, according to the CDC; that’s the lowest this number has been since last summer.

Hospitalization and death numbers are also still falling. The CDC reports that only 2,300 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to U.S. hospitals each day last week, compared to almost ten times that number at Omicron’s peak. Hospital systems in all 50 states and D.C. are currently labeled as “having capacity” on the Circuit Breaker Dashboard.

While this is all good news, it’s unclear how long this lull in cases will last. BA.2, the Omicron sister strain, is slowly outcompeting the original variant thanks to its even-more-transmissible capabilities: it’s gone from causing about 2% of new COVID-19 cases nationwide in the week ending February 12 to causing 23% of new cases in the week ending March 12, according to CDC estimates.

This strain is wreaking havoc in Asia and Europe, and U.S. experts are concerned that we may see a new surge in the coming weeks. Wastewater data may also suggest an oncoming surge, as a growing number of sewershed collection sites are reporting increases in their coronavirus levels. (More on this later in the issue.)

At the state level, a few places are beginning to see case increases: Washington, D.C., New York, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Illinois all reported modest increases this week, according to the March 17 Community Profile Report. D.C. had the highest case increase, 20% more cases than the previous week. Some of these locations were also the first to be hit in the Omicron surge last December.

U.S. leaders should be taking advantage of this lull between surges to improve our preparedness: distribute masks and rapid tests, expand surveillance systems, and—most importantly—encourage people to get vaccinated so that they are protected when case rates rise again. Yet instead, Republicans in Congress are refusing to provide more public health funding, and the rate of Americans getting their first vaccine doses is lower than it has been since December 2020.

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