National numbers, August 27

Biobot’s wastewater surveillance data suggest a potential plateau in COVID-19 spread, though future weeks of data will be needed to say for sure.

During the most recent week of data available (August 6-12), the U.S. reported about 12,600 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 1,800 new admissions each day
  • 3.8 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 22% more new admissions than the prior week (July 30-August 5)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 13.4% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • A 1% lower concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than last week (as of August 23, per Biobot’s dashboard)
  • 25% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.6; 21% by EG.5; 11% by XBB.2.3; 13% by FL.1.5.1 (as of August 19)

This week, our limited COVID-19 data picture suggests that transmission may be starting to level off. But if BA.2.86 or another newer variant enters this high-spread environment, the outlook could get less rosy.

One sign of a possible plateau: Biobot’s national wastewater surveillance dashboard shows a very slight downward trend, with SARS-CoV-2 levels dropping by about 1% from August 16 to August 23. This is based on just one week of data, though, so we’ll have to see what further updates show.

Biobot’s regional data similarly show potential good trends: the Midwest appears to have passed the peak during this surge, as of the last two weeks, while the South and Northeast also show slight plateaus. Coronavirus levels are still trending up in the West, but less intensely.

Data from both Biobot and WastewaterSCAN suggest that COVID-19 spread has turned a corner in some Midwest sewersheds, such as Johnson County, Kansas; Lawrence, Kansas; Lonoke County, Arkansas; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Warren, Michigan. Still, more data are needed to see if these trends hold.

Test positivity data from the CDC’s respiratory surveillance network also suggest that COVID-19 spread may be slowing. After a rapid rise through July, test positivity increased by just 8% in the most recent week of data (ending August 19), from 12.4% to 13.4%. This is still a high overall positivity rate, though, especially considering how difficult PCR tests are to access these days.

Hospitalizations continue to rise as well: the CDC reported a 22% increase in new COVID-19 patients from the week ending August 5 to the week ending August 12. While hospitalizations are significantly delayed compared to other metrics, these data show one of the surge’s severe impacts. We have even less data about Long COVID, the other main severe impact.

BA.2.86, a new variant that scientists are watching closely, isn’t yet impacting transmission in the U.S. based on our current data. But it could lead to another increase in cases, if it proves able to outcompete the now-dominant group of XBB variants. (More on BA.2.86 later in today’s issue.)

Remember: new variants don’t appear magically out of nowhere. People encourage their evolution, by allowing the virus to continue spreading unchecked. In addition to protecting ourselves and our communities, COVID-19 safety measures help to prevent further mutation.

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