New York Times COVID-19 tracker is back: After shutting down ahead of the ending federal public health emergency, the New York Times COVID-19 tracker has now resumed updates. Since the tracker is based on CDC data, case numbers and other major metrics are no longer available; but readers can find hospital admissions, deaths, and vaccinations nationally and by state, along with some local data based on hospital service areas. The NYT website doesn’t give much information about why they resumed updates—if anyone reading this can share what happened, please let me know! (And thank you to reader Robin Lloyd who flagged the renewed updates.)
CDC Director calls for more data authority: CDC Director Rochelle Walensky appeared in front of Congress this week, speaking to Republican lawmakers for a hearing about her time leading the agency before she steps down at the end of June. One notable trend from the hearing, according to reporting by Rachel Cohrs at STAT News: Walensky acknowledged that the CDC wasn’t able to collect some key COVID-19 data points, such as vaccination rates for COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Walensky called for Congress to give the CDC more authority in collecting data from state and local health departments.
CDC expanding its wastewater testing targets: Another CDC update for this week: the agency’s National Wastewater Surveillance System is expanding the pathogens that it will look for in sewage, Genome Web reports. NWSS plans to test for several respiratory viruses (COVID-19, flu, RSV), foodborne infections such as E. coli and norovirus, antimicrobial resistance genes, mpox, and other pathogens that may warrant concern. CDC scientists are working with the company GT Molecular to develop and test new assays. Other wastewater research groups are similarly developing tests to expand the health data that we get from sewage, I’ve learned in reporting for an upcoming story (which will be out later this summer).
Genomic surveillance to keep tabs on Omicron’s evolution: CDC researchers invovled with tracking coronavirus variants shared some updates in a study published this week by the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. As fewer people are getting PCR tests across the U.S., the CDC has access to fewer samples for sequencing than it did at prior points in the pandemic. As a result, scientists have had to update their analytical procedures for using available data to estimate how much different variants are spreading. According to the CDC, Omicron has dominated the U.S. since early 2022, with earlier BA lineages giving way to XBB.
Fungal infections increased during the pandemic: In recent years, hospital patients have become increasingly at risk of infection with fungi, which can spread widely in healthcare settings. A new paper from the CDC adds evidence to this trend: fungal infections in hospitals have increased steadily from 2019 through 2021, the researchers found. The researchers also found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and a fungal infection had high mortality rates, with almost half of these patients dying in 2020-2021. COVID-19 can disrupt patients’ immune systems and make them more vulnerable to fungi, the researchers suggested. This is a major threat that’s likely to continue in coming years.