New York State expands wastewater surveillance program: This week, the New York State health department announced a major investment in the state’s wastewater surveillance program: the program has received a $6.6 million grant from the CDC and $15 million from the governor (over the next three years). With this investment, New York’s wastewater surveillance network will grow from 125 to 215 testing sites and will expand from COVID-19 to include flu, RSV, hepatitis, norovirus, and antimicrobial resistance. This is great news for New York—I hope to see other states make similar investments.
Bivalent boosters vs. XBB lineages: The bivalent, Omicron-specific booster shots provide some protection against XBB.1.5 and related Omicron subvariants, according to a new study published this week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC researchers used data from COVID-19 testing at pharmacies to compare results among people who had received the new booster and those who hadn’t. Booster recipients were significantly less likely to have a symptomatic XBB/XBB.1.5 infection compared to people who hadn’t received the shot, the researchers found (with a vaccine effectiveness value of 48%). While the boosters work less well against XBB.1.5 than they did against BA.4/BA.5, they’re still a valuable protective measure.
CDC overhauling data communications: The CDC is creating new internal offices that will change how it processes, publishes, and communicates about data, according to POLITICO. The new offices include an Office of Health Equity and an Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology—both of which have new acting directors as of this week. It’s currently unclear what the new offices will do, exactly, or how they will improve upon a fractured nationwide health data system (with decisions about how to store and share key data largely left up to state agencies and private companies). Still, it’s good to see movement on the CDC’s efforts.
WHO deliberates ending the global health emergency: On Friday, a World Health Organization committee met to discuss whether the official global health emergency over COVID-19 should be ended. The committee’s decision will be made public tomorrow, as a recommendation to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; Tedros will ultimately decide whether or not to end the emergency. Global health experts who spoke to STAT reporter Helen Branswell suggested that the WHO likely isn’t ready to end this emergency yet, but it may happen later in 2023.
KFF compiles Long COVID data: A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation compiles and provides context for Long COVID data reported by the Census and CDC’s Household Pulse Survey. The share of people who reported ever having Long COVID symptoms following a COVID-19 case has declined slightly over time, the KFF report finds; this number went from 35% in June 2022 to 28% in January 2023. However, the number is still high and Long COVID can be debilitating for many, as 79% of people with Long COVID report limitations to their day-to-day activities.
Health of Congressional Districts: Finally: a new dashboard, published this week by researchers at NYU Langone Health, provides detailed health metrics for all 435 Congressional districts in the U.S. (plus Washington, D.C.). The dashboard is a helpful source for researchers and policymakers looking to understand health patterns in specific districts. One of its key metrics is a “COVID Local Risk Index” that reflects the risk residents face for severe health, social, and economic outcomes of COVID-19.