National numbers, May 15

Omicron BA.2.12.1 (shown here in red) is taking over from BA.2 (pink) in much of the country, with the Northeast in the lead. Chart via the CDC, data as of May 7.

In the past week (May 7 through 13), the U.S. reported about 590,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 85,000 new cases each day
  • 181 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 31% more new cases than last week (April 30-May 6)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 18,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 2,600 new admissions each day
  • 5.6 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 18% more new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 1,900 new COVID-19 deaths (0.6 for every 100,000 people)
  • 99% of new cases are Omicron BA.2-caused; 43% BA.2.12.1-caused (as of May 7)
  • An average of 80,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

New COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the U.S., with an average of 85,000 cases reported nationally each day last week—double the daily average from three weeks ago. This is a significant undercount, of course, as the majority of COVID-19 tests conducted these days are done at home.

The country is also reporting more COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals: about 18,400 people were admitted last week, an 18% increase from the prior week. While this is far lower than the numbers reported during the peak of the Omicron wave (and includes some incidental hospitalizations), it’s still a concerning signal: even as immunity from prior vaccinations and infections protects many Americans from severe disease, plenty of people remain vulnerable.

This current increase is largely driven by the Omicron subvariant BA.2 and its offshoot BA.2.12.1, which is the most transmissible version of this lineage yet. BA.2.12.1 caused about 43% of new cases nationwide in the week ending May 7, according to CDC estimates; in parts of the Northeast, Midwest, and South, that ratio is over 50%.

The Northeast, which has the most BA.2.12.1, also continues to report the highest coronavirus levels in wastewater regionally, according to Biobot. After a potential plateau in recent weeks, the Northeast is now continuing to show a clear uptick; wastewater data from other parts of the country also indicate a slow increase in coronavirus transmission.

The CDC’s wastewater data somewhat reaffirm these trends, but are currently difficult to interpret as a number of sites have gone offline recently. (More on that later in the issue.)

States with the highest COVID-19 case rates continue to include Northeast states: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. But some Midwest states (Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin) as well as Hawaii are also reporting over 250 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, showing how this BA.2 surge is spreading to other regions.

If you look at the CDC’s Community Level guidance, you may think that, even if you live in one of these surging Northeast states, you can go out in public without a mask. But other metrics, such as the agency’s old Community Transmission levels (which are based more on cases than hospitalizations), suggest otherwise.

In short: if you want to protect yourself and others in your community, especially if you live in the Northeast, now is a good time to mask up, test often, and avoid large indoor gatherings.

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