National numbers, December 18

Biobot’s wastewater surveillance data suggest that COVID-19 spread is trending down in the West coast and plateauing in other regions. Data as of December 15.

In the past week (December 8 through 14), the U.S. reported about 460,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 65,000 new cases each day
  • 139 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 3% fewer new cases than last week (December 1-7)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 35,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 5,000 new admissions each day
  • 10.7 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 2% more new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 2,700 new COVID-19 deaths (390 per day)
  • 69% of new cases are caused by Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1; 5% by BF.7; 7% by XBB (as of December 17)
  • An average of 250,000 vaccinations per day (CDC link)

After a significant post-Thanksgiving spike, COVID-19 transmission in the U.S. appears to be in a high plateau, according to trends in cases and wastewater. Official case counts stayed fairly steady this week compared to the week following the holiday, according to the CDC, while wastewater data from Biobot show coronavirus concentrations leveling out.

COVID-19 hospital admissions are similarly at a high plateau: about 5,000 new people with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals every day last week, per the CDC. That’s a 2% increase from last week.

Going beyond the national trends, though, we see that some places are experiencing dips in COVID-19 spread while others are spiking. In Boston, for example, wastewater data suggest that COVID-19 is at its most prevalent since the surge in early summer. Across the country in Los Angeles, coronavirus levels in wastewater are trending down after increasing through November.

New York and New Jersey had the highest official COVID-19 case rates in the last week, according to the latest Community Profile Report, followed by Illinois, California, and Rhode Island. But these data may be more a product of which states still have somewhat-available PCR testing than actual case comparisons.

And even in places where COVID-19 is declining, the combined threat of this virus, flu, and RSV is still putting a lot of strain on healthcare systems. Take Los Angeles: while it might not be seeing record COVID-19 cases, the city currently has fewer free hospital beds available than at any other point in the pandemic, per reporting by the Los Angeles Times.

Flu might be peaking in some parts of the country, Helen Branswell wrote in STAT on Friday, based on CDC data. But it’s still early in the typical flu season, and hard to tell how COVID-19 and the flu (and RSV) might impact each other.

As we gear up for another week of holiday travel and gatherings—and as highly contagious Omicron subvariants, the BQs and XBB, continue to outcompete other versions of the virus—this is an important time to take all possible safety precautions.

That includes getting your flu shot and the new Omicron-specific COVID-19 booster, which further CDC studies have shown is highly effective at preventing hospitalization. And it includes masking, testing before and after events, and gathering outdoors (or otherwise improving ventilation) to reduce your risk of spreading all kinds of viruses.

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