National numbers, March 5

Wastewater data from Biobot suggest that COVID-19 spread is still declining throughout the country, but slowly.

In the past week (February 23 through March 1), the U.S. officially reported about 230,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 32,000 new cases each day
  • 69 total new cases for every 100,000 Americans
  • 5% fewer new cases than last week (February 16-22)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 23,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 3,300 new admissions each day
  • 7.1 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 8% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 2,300 new COVID-19 deaths (330 per day)
  • 90% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.5; 8% by BQ.1 and BQ.1.1; 1% by CH.1.1 (as of March 4)
  • An average of 50,000 vaccinations per day

At the national level, major COVID-19 metrics continue to indicate slow declines in transmission. As I’ve been writing for the last few weeks, we’re at a “low tide” point in COVID-19 spread: clearly lower than the peaks that occur after holidays or new variants, but much higher than the baselines that we experienced before the Omicron era.

Official cases reported by the CDC dropped by 5% last week compared to the week prior, while new hospital admissions dropped by 8%. Wastewater data from Biobot show declining coronavirus levels nationally, but viral concentrations in wastewater are twice as high as they were at this point in 2021 or 2022.

Biobot’s regional data suggest that the Midwest has overtaken the Northeast in coronavirus concentrations for the first time since late summer 2022. Both regions are seeing declines, but the declining spread in the Northeast has accelerated a bit faster than that in the Midwest.

While most individual states and counties are reporting COVID-19 declines as well, a few have reported increased coronavirus in their wastewater in recent weeks. This includes counties in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Florida, Texas, and others in the Midwest and South.

Omicron XBB.1.5 continues to be the dominant variant in the U.S., now accounting for about 90% of new cases in the last week, per CDC estimates. Viral evolution experts will be watching to see if XBB.1.5 mutates further, or if some other variant arrives to compete with it.

As we head into the spring, U.S. COVID-19 data continue to get harder to find and less reliable. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would retire its Community Profile Reports, which I used to rely on as a regular source for this newsletter.

Meanwhile, a study from Denis Nash and his team at the City University of New York that estimated true COVID-19 prevalence during the BA.4/BA.5 surge last summer was recently published in the journal Preventative Medicine. I covered this study when it was released as a preprint last fall, and find it striking that no other estimates like this have emerged since then.

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