National numbers, March 27

The Northeast has seen a small uptick in coronavirus levels in its wastewater in recent weeks, followed by a plateau. Chart via Biobot Analytics.

In the past week (March 19 through 25), the U.S. reported about 190,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 27,000 new cases each day
  • 58 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 5% fewer new cases than last week (March 12-18)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 13,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 1,800 new admissions each day
  • 3.9 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 21% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 5,200 new COVID-19 deaths (1.6 for every 100,000 people)
  • 100% of new cases are Omicron-caused; 35% BA.2-caused (as of March 19)
  • An average of 100,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

New COVID-19 case numbers for the U.S. overall are still decreasing, according to the CDC’s data. But the drop from the previous week’s cases to this week’s cases (about 5%) is lower than any week-over-week change since Omicron peaked in January, suggesting that we’re heading for a plateau—if not a new increase.

Last week, I discussed a potential new surge in the U.S. driven by the Omicron sublineage BA.2, which is more transmissible than the version of Omicron we faced a couple of months ago. BA.2 caused about 35% of new COVID-19 cases nationwide in the week ending March 19, according to CDC estimates, up from 22% in the prior week.

As BA.2 slowly outcompetes the other Omicron sublineages in the U.S., we also continue to see case upticks in some parts of the country. States that reported case increases in the last week include Arkansas, Kentucky, Maine, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Vermont, according to the March 24 Community Profile Report. (Arkansas and Kentucky reported week-over-week increases above 25%, while the other states here reported increases above 10%.)

Wastewater data align somewhat with these case increases. Biobot’s tracker shows a slight uptick (followed by a plateau) in coronavirus levels in the Northeast’s wastewater, at a regional level, along with plateaus in other parts of the country. And about 40% of sites in the CDC’s national wastewater network have reported increases over the last two weeks—though the CDC’s data are difficult to interpret, as this tracker doesn’t provide context on actual wastewater levels at each site.

To be clear, it’s good news that we aren’t seeing major case increases yet, just some small upticks. At the same time, numbers of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients and deaths are dropping to levels not seen since last summer; this week, about 750 people died of the disease each day, according to the CDC—the first time this number has been under 1,000 in several months.

In a recent TIME article, several experts suggested that vaccines plus lingering immunity from the Omicron wave in December and January may protect the U.S. from a major surge with BA.2. Still, with safety measures dropping across the country, in the event that we do see a major new surge (from BA.2 or otherwise), we won’t be prepared to curb virus transmission in a meaningful way.

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