National numbers, April 3

BA.2 caused more than two-thirds of new COVID-19 cases in the Northeast in the week ending March 26, according to CDC estimates. It’s no coincidence that this region is also seeing cases start to tick up.

In the past week (March 26 through April 1), the U.S. reported about 180,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 26,000 new cases each day
  • 55 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 3% fewer new cases than last week (March 19-25)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 11,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 1,600 new admissions each day
  • 3.3 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 16% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 4,400 new COVID-19 deaths (1.3 for every 100,000 people)
  • 100% of new cases are Omicron-caused; 55% BA.2-caused (as of March 26)
  • An average of 90,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have reached a plateau. New cases decreased only 3% from the previous week to this week, following an 8% decrease the week before that. New hospitalizations and deaths are also declining slightly, approaching the same plateau pattern.

Wastewater is showing a similar pattern, too. The overall, national trend of coronavirus levels in wastewater has been in a plateau for a couple of weeks now, according to the Biobot dashboard. Regionally, the Northeast saw a slight uptick followed by an even slighter downturn, and the South may be seeing a slight uptick now.

BA.2, the Omicron sublineage that is more transmissible than the version of this variant that first reached us in the U.S., is now causing over half of new COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to CDC estimates. Two weeks ago, I wrote that 50% prevalence was a threshold for cases starting to increase in Europe; if the U.S. follows Europe (as we usually do), that means we’ll start seeing case increases here in the next week.

According to the CDC’s estimates, BA.2 is already causing almost 75% of new cases in the New England and New York/New Jersey regions. It’s unsurprising, then, that several Northeast states have reported case increases in the last week. According to the latest Community Profile Report, states that reported increases above 25% week-over-week include: Arizona, Alabama, Ohio, Delaware, North Carolina, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York.

New York City—an early hotspot for BA.2, as it was for the original Omicron strain in December—reported more than 100 cases for every 100,000 residents last week, according to both city data and the CDC’s figures.

Under the old CDC thresholds, this would have put the city in a “high transmission” zone, indicating that all residents should mask up in public, indoor spaces. However, the new CDC guidance places New York City in a “low” level, meaning masks are not recommended—a clear example of the lenience in this new guidance.

It’s good news that we’re not seeing a sharp BA.2-driven increase here in the U.S. yet, either within coronavirus levels in wastewater or within the case data. A BA.2 surge here may likely be a small bump rather than a huge wave. Still, the new lenience in safety measures—combined with federal funding running out for free testing, vaccinations, and other COVID-related coverage—is making me pretty nervous.

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