National numbers, August 6

Test positivity is way up in the U.S., while hospitalizations are starting to follow this trend. Chart via the CDC.

During the most recent week of data available (July 16 through 22), the U.S. reported about 8,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 1,150 new admissions each day
  • 2.4 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 12% more new admissions than the prior week (July 9-15)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 8.9% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • A 10% higher concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than last week (as of August 2, per Biobot’s dashboard)
  • 31% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.6; 17% by EG.5; 11% by XBB.2.3; 10% by XBB.1.9 (as of August 5)

Over the last few weeks, the signals of a summer COVID-19 surge in the U.S. have grown steadily clearer. Viral levels in wastewater, test positivity, and hospitalizations are all climbing across the country.

Wastewater surveillance data from Biobot suggest that coronavirus levels have doubled nationally in the last month. The surge is impacting all major regions of the country; the Northeast and South saw earlier increases, but the Midwest and West Coast are now catching up.

The CDC’s wastewater surveillance network also points to increasing COVID-19 spread, with sites across the country reporting higher viral levels. While wastewater surveillance remains uneven (some states are testing in every county, others in just a handful of locations), it still gives us enough information to identify a widespread surge.

Test positivity from the CDC’s lab testing network shows continued increases as well. About 8.9% of COVID-19 tests reported to the agency returned positive results in the week ending July 29, compared to 4.5% in the week ending June 24. This increase, too, is consistent across regions.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are also going up, according to the CDC. These data are significantly delayed, with the most recent numbers dating to about two weeks ago. So, while overall patient numbers remain low right now, I expect they will continue to rise as the surge goes on.

The coronavirus’ continued evolution is likely playing a role in this summer’s increased spread, as are summer travel and waning immunity from past vaccinations. Omicron EG.5, a descendant of the XBB.1.9 lineage, is the latest variant to spread widely, according to the CDC’s estimates.

No one version of XBB has yet shown a significant ability to spread much faster or cause more severe symptoms than other variants. Rather, many iterations of this Omicron lineage are spreading in tandem, continuing to mutate with every infection. And with fewer PCR tests happening, it’s harder for health agencies to keep track.

This summer’s surge may be less visible than ever. But wastewater data suggest we’re seeing similar levels of COVID-19 spread as we saw with Delta in summer 2021. Precautions are still important!

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