In the past week (May 21 through 27), the U.S. reported about 7,600 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:
- An average of 1,100 new admissions each day
- 2.3 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
- 8% fewer new admissions than last week (May 14-20)
Additionally, the U.S. reported:
- 4.4% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive (a 0% change from last week)
- A 17% lower concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than last week (as of May 31, per Biobot’s dashboard)
- 54% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.5; 19% by XBB.1.16; 18% by XBB.1.9 (as of May 27)
The COVID-19 plateau of the last few weeks continues at the national level, though experts are concerned that a summer surge could occur in parts of the country. Wastewater surveillance and testing data are indicating potential increases in the New York City region.
Hospital admissions for COVID-19 remain at the levels we’ve seen throughout the spring, with about 1,100 people admitted nationwide each day last week. These numbers are similar to the hospitalizations reported at previous low points for COVID-19, in spring 2022 and 2021.
Testing data from the CDC’s National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) also suggest a plateau: national test positivity didn’t change from last week to this week. While this CDC system includes a small fraction of the PCR labs that reported COVID-19 tests before the federal emergency ended, it’s still a helpful indicator for testing trends.
Wastewater surveillance data from Biobot shows a similar picture, with coronavirus levels in sewage remaining consistent at the national level for the last two months. All four major regions of the country are trending down, according to Biobot’s analysis.
But national data can hide more concerning trends at the local level. Wastewater data from New York City’s fourteen water treatment plants suggest potential increases in COVID-19 spread in the city and outlying suburbs over the last couple of weeks. The city’s wastewater data are reported with a delay (as of today, the most recent update was May 21), so I find it worrying that an increase may have predated the Memorial Day holiday. Test positivity data for the New York/New Jersey region suggest an uptick as well.
NYC has been a bellwether for the rest of the U.S. at many points during the pandemic, and it’s possible that the city could see a surge before other regions again this summer. Health experts are also closely watching the South, where people gather indoors more in the summer.
About 96% of Americans over age 16 have some COVID-19 protection from vaccination, past infections, or both, according to a recent CDC study. This protection will help many people avoid severe COVID-19 symptoms this summer even if they get infected. But Long COVID continues to be a risk—potentially even escalating with more infections.