National numbers, April 30

The number of COVID-19 tests reported to the CDC has declined precipitously since peak COVID-19 surges, even though COVID-19 spread has not. Chart from the CDC.

In the past week (April 20 through 26), the U.S. officially reported about 88,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 13,000 new cases each day
  • 10% fewer new cases than last week (April 13-19)

In the past week, the U.S. also reported about 11,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals. This amounts to:

  • An average of 1,500 new admissions each day
  • 3.2 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 16% fewer new admissions than last week

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 1,100 new COVID-19 deaths (150 per day)
  • 69% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.5; 13% by XBB.1.9; 12% by XBB.1.16 (as of April 29)
  • An average of 40,000 vaccinations per day

Major COVID-19 metrics continue to suggest an ongoing (though slight) decline in the virus’ spread nationally, despite the rise of newer and more contagious variants. The moderate plateau persists.

Officially-reported cases and new hospital admissions declined by 10% and 16% respectively last week, compared to the week prior. According to the CDC’s data notes, three states (Florida, Iowa, and Pennsylvania) did not report cases last week, while two states (Louisiana and Indiana) reported extra cases from their historical backlogs.

In addition to the ongoing reporting issues from state health departments, it’s important to remember that PCR testing continues to decline across the country. About one million PCR and similar lab test results were reported to the CDC last week, compared to peaks over 10 million per week during major surges.

Still, the hospitalization numbers and wastewater surveillance data lead me to suggest that we really are in a transmission plateau. Wastewater data from Biobot show a slight decline in national coronavirus concentrations over the last month.

All four regions of the country are also experiencing COVID-19 plateaus, according to Biobot’s data. The West Coast and Midwest have slightly higher coronavirus levels than the Northeast and South, but there aren’t huge differences between the regions.

The West and Midwest are also hotspots for XBB.1.16 and XBB.1.9, the two Omicron subvariants that have started competing with XBB.1.5 over the last few weeks. This competition is happening slowly; XBB.1.5 declined from an estimated 84% of new cases during the last week of March to 69% of new cases this past week, according to the CDC’s estimates.

At this point, it’s hard to tell how much of an impact the latest variants will have on overall COVID-19 spread. And these connections likely will only get more difficult to parse out, as PCR testing continues to decline and reporting gets less reliable. The CDC itself is currently evaluating how to adjust its data-sharing practices when the federal public health emergency ends on May 11.

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