National numbers, October 2

Coronavirus levels in Boston, Mass. wastewater spiked intensely last week. Chart via MWRA/Biobot.

In the past week (September 24 through 30), the U.S. reported about 330,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 47,000 new cases each day
  • 100 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 13% fewer new cases than last week (September 17-23)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 26,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 3,800 new admissions each day
  • 8.0 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 6% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 2,400 new COVID-19 deaths (350 per day)
  • 81% of new cases are caused by Omicron BA.5; 13% by BA.4.6; 3% by BF.7;  1% by BA.2.75 (as of October 1)
  • An average of 400,000 vaccinations per day

Official COVID-19 numbers continue to drop nationwide, with case counts down 13% and new hospital admissions down 6% this week compared to the prior week. Still, signals from wastewater suggest this is no time to let our guard down, especially if you live in the Northeast.

Biobot’s wastewater surveillance dashboard is back this week (after a one-week hiatus). Nationally, this surveillance suggests coronavirus transmission is at a high plateau close to what we saw during early fall of last year, before Omicron hit. The Northeast is driving that recent trend, with an overall coronavirus concentration twice as high as the concentrations reported in other regions.

This region remains a hotspot for Omicron BF.7, the subvariant of BA.5 that could be the U.S.’s next dominant lineage. Nationwide, BF.7 is slowly competing with BA.5: it’s grown from causing about 1% of new cases to 3.4% over the last month, according to CDC estimates. BA.4.6 also continues to grow, while BA.2.75 has remained relatively constant.

Within the Northeast region, Boston stands out: the city’s wastewater surveillance program (run by Biobot) reported a major spike last week. And by major spike, I mean an increase of more than 100% week-over-week, according to the city’s public health department. “This spike in our wastewater concentration is of great concern and another reminder that the pandemic is far from over,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Boston’s public health commissioner, in a press release.

Wastewater spikes typically precede case spikes by a couple of weeks, though we’ll have to see whether the significant drop in PCR testing in recent months changes this pattern. Either way, this is a good time to get a booster shot (more on boosters below), stock up on masks and rapid tests, and start planning safety measures for the holidays.

Boston is running vaccine clinics in response to this potential new surge, and the city public health department “recommends” masking indoors. But any further mitigations are likely out of the question, even though they could have a huge impact.

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