National numbers, September 18

Wastewater trends in the past couple of weeks are looking a bit messy, with a potential new surge in the Northeast and plateaus in other regions. Chart via Biobot, retrieved on September 18.

In the past week (September 10 through 16), the U.S. reported about 420,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 60,000 new cases each day
  • 128 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 16% fewer new cases than last week (September 3-9)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 31,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 4,400 new admissions each day
  • 9.3 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 6% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 2,500 new COVID-19 deaths (0.8 for every 100,000 people)
  • 85% of new cases are caused by Omicron BA.5; 10% by BA.4.6; 1% by BA.2.75 (as of September 17)
  • An average of 25,000 vaccinations per day (per Bloomberg)

Officially-reported COVID-19 cases are still on the decline nationwide this week, as are newly hospitalized patients (a more reliable metric). About 4,400 people with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals across the country, compared to over 6,000 a day in late July.

These declines may be short-lived, as reopened schools and increased indoor gatherings contribute to new outbreaks this fall. Last week, I warned that Biobot’s wastewater data showed a slight uptick in coronavirus levels across the country; this week’s update shows a continued increase in the Northeast while other regions are in plateaus.

Will the Northeast be the first region to experience a new surge again? It seems feasible, based on data from both Biobot and the CDC—though this region also has better wastewater surveillance coverage than other parts of the country, ABC News reporter Arielle Mitropoulos points out. Boston, one long-running wastewater surveillance location, is reporting high coronavirus concentrations at a level not observed since earlier in the summer.

Nationwide, BA.5 continues to be the dominant variant, causing about 85% of new cases in the week ending September 17 per CDC estimates. But it’s facing competition from newer Omicron subvariants, including BA.4.6 (10% of new cases this week), BA.2.75 (1.3% of cases), and BF.7 (1.7% of cases). As of this week, the CDC is now reporting BA.2.75 and BF.7 separately rather than combining them with other lineages.

BA.2.75, also called Centaurus, is a subvariant from BA.2 that evolved some additional mutations. BF.7 actually evolved from BA.5; its longer name is BA.5.2.1.X. There hasn’t been much reporting yet on BF.7, but it appears to be present in the Northeast—particularly in New England—at higher levels than in other regions. (Possibly another driver of a new surge in this area.)

Overall, while COVID-19 spread in the U.S. is occurring less right now than it did earlier in the summer, the risk of encountering this virus is still pretty high across the country. According to the CDC’s “Community Transmission Level” guidance (pre-February), more than 90% of U.S. counties should require masks indoors.

Instead, we have no masking requirements, increasingly-limited testing, and a booster shot campaign that many Americans do not even know is happening. Between 300 and 400 Americans still die of COVID-19 every day—a number that should be unacceptable—and I fear this number will only go up as we head into winter.

Leave a Reply