National numbers, February 5

XBB.1.5, the Omicron lineage that’s been dominant in the Northeast for several weeks now, is spreading through the rest of the country. Chart from the CDC, estimates as of February 3.

In the past week (January 26 through February 1), the U.S. officially reported about 280,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 40,000 new cases each day
  • 86 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 7% fewer new cases than last week (January 19-25)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 27,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 3,900 new admissions each day
  • 8.4 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 8% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 3,500 new COVID-19 deaths (500 per day)
  • 66% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.5; 27% by BQ.1 and BQ.1.1; 2% by CH.1.1 (as of February 4)
  • An average of 100,000 vaccinations per day

COVID-19 spread in the U.S. continues to decline—but the decline continues to get slower, following the trend that I wrote about last week. Official COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and wastewater surveillance all indicate decreased transmission, leading into potential plateaus.

New hospital admissions for COVID-19, for example, decreased by 8% this week (ending February 1) compared to the prior week (ending January 25). This is a smaller decrease than the prior two weeks, when admissions went down by 13% and 18%. Overall, new hospitalizations are at a similar level to what the U.S. faced in early summer 2022, as BA.5 started spreading across the country.

Wastewater surveillance from Biobot suggests that COVID-19 spread is decreasing in all four major regions. But the decrease is steeper in the Northeast and South than it is in the Midwest and West coast, suggesting potential plateaus in the latter regions. Wastewater data from the CDC continues to show decreased transmission in about half of sites reporting to the agency and increased transmission in the other half.

Where is COVID-19 spread increasing right now? Some northern Midwest states are reporting the most significant upticks. According to the latest Community Profile Report, new COVID-19 hospitalizations went up last week in South Dakota, Idaho, and Minnesota. Wastewater monitoring sites in Idaho and Minnesota also reported increased coronavirus concentrations, according to the WastewaterSCAN project.

In the Midwest and West coast, Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 continues to outcompete other versions of the virus. Per the CDC’s estimates, it accounted for about 44% of new cases in the region including the Dakotas and Minnesota this week, compared to 32% last week. XBB.1.5 already dominates the East coast, so its rise in the rest of the country could be one reason why COVID-19 is starting to go up again.

Nationally, XBB.1.5 caused about two-thirds of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week, according to the CDC’s estimates. It’s the only variant on the rise right now, as it drives out the BQ lineage and others. CH.1.1, the subvariant currently spreading fast in the U.K. and other countries, is less of a threat in the U.S. so far (at under 2% of new cases).

While XBB.1.5 contributes to new infections across the country, the number of Americans who’ve received an updated booster shot remains stubbornly low. Only 52 million people have received the Omicron-specific booster, representing just 20% of the eligible population, according to CDC data.

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