National numbers, July 16

Wastewater surveillance data from Biobot indicate that three out of four major U.S. regions are experiencing increased COVID-19 spread.

In the past week (July 2 through 8), the CDC did not update COVID-19 hospitalization data for unclear reasons. During the most recent week of data available (June 25 through July 1), the U.S. reported about 6,200 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 900 new admissions each day
  • 1.9 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 1% fewer new admissions than the prior week (June 18-24)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 5.5% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • A 13% higher concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than last week (as of July 12, per Biobot’s dashboard)
  • 32% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.6; 15% by XBB.1.9; 13% by XBB.2.3 (as of July 8)

National COVID-19 data are showing signs of a summer uptick in infections across multiple regions. Newer variants, summer travel, and holidays are likely contributing to this increase, though it’s hard to say if we will see a real surge or a continued shifting of the U.S.’s high COVID-19 baseline.

Wastewater surveillance data from Biobot Analytics show a significant uptick in coronavirus levels over the last month, with an increase of about 50% from June 14 to July 12. Three out of four major U.S. regions (the Northeast, South, and West Coast) report notable increases, while the Midwest reports a slower uptick.

The CDC’s National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) is not yet showing a pronounced increase. Of the testing sites in this network that reported data in the last two weeks, about half reported upticks while the others reported declines or plateaus. However, NWSS data tend to be updated on a more delayed schedule than Biobot’s dashboard, since the CDC compiles information from a number of state and local health agencies.

As epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers points out in her Substack post describing the wastewater trend, COVID-19 summer waves in the U.S. tend to start in the South. Some experts attribute this to more indoor summer activities in the region, but there’s little data to back this up, Rivers writes. Plus, this year, the summer uptick has appeared to start in multiple regions of the country at the same time.

In addition to the wastewater data, test positivity data from the CDCs National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) show a similar uptick in the last month: from 4.1% of COVID-19 tests returning positive results in the week ending June 10 to 5.5% in the week ending July 8. Remember, this NREVSS doesn’t share data from all PCR tests done in the U.S. (as the CDC no longer has authority to collect this information); but it is set up to provide national and regional estimates.

According to NREVSS, COVID-19 test positivity is going up in several major regions, including New York and New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, the Gulf Coast, and the Northwest. All of these regions are dealing with the Omicron XBB variant’s continued evolution; in the CDC’s most recent variant update on July 8, the agency listed 12 different XBB subvariants competing for hosts.

The CDC failed to update its COVID-19 hospitalization data this week, so the most recent available data are from the week ending July 1. Typically, the agency’s data scientists will add notes to their dashboard explaining update delays or errors, but this week, I couldn’t find anything.

As I wrote on June 25: sometimes, I wonder if the CDC doesn’t think anyone is checking their dashboard anymore. But we are! COVID-19 data may be more limited than ever, but we still have enough information to know when cases are ticking up again—and we know the measures needed to protect ourselves and our communities.

Leave a Reply