National numbers, September 3

COVID-19 data from WastewaterSCAN suggest that coronavirus spread is still trending up nationwide.

During the most recent week of data available (August 13-19), the U.S. reported about 15,100 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 2,200 new admissions each day
  • 4.6 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 19% more new admissions than the prior week (August 6-12)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 14.9% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • A 3% higher concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than last week (as of August 30, per Biobot’s dashboard)
  • 23% of new cases are caused by Omicron XBB.1.6; 22% by EG.5; 15% by FL.1.5.1 (as of September 2)

The late-summer COVID-19 surge is still in full swing, with all major metrics showing further increases in disease spread this week. BA.2.86 isn’t spreading widely yet but is worth continued surveillance.

Last week, I wrote that wastewater data from Biobot Analytics showed a potential plateau—but cautioned those data were tentative. Unfortunately, further updates this week suggest that COVID-19 transmission is still increasing, albeit not as dramatically as it was in July.

Data from WastewaterSCAN show a similar pattern: a sharp increase in COVID-19 spread from late June through July, followed by a slight leveling off, and then followed by further increase. This could be caused by a newer variant entering the picture, driven by behaviors, or (most likely) some combination of the two.

Regional data from both Biobot and WastewaterSCAN indicate that COVID-19 transmission might be approaching plateaus in the South and Midwest, but is going up sharply in the Northeast and West coast. The Midwest, after showing decreases in Biobot’s data over recent weeks, is now trending up again.

The CDC’s test positivity and hospitalization numbers continue to rise as well. New hospital admissions for COVID-19 reached 2,000 per day during the week ending August 19, and are likely still higher now. Test positivity is up to 15%, the highest this metric has been since last winter’s holiday surge.

In the CDC’s latest variant estimates (posted on Saturday), EG.5 and XBB.1.6 continue to dominate in a crowded landscape of Omicron XBB relatives. The agency hasn’t yet found enough BA.2.86 for this new variant to be included in the update. However, this could indicate low testing rather than an actual low prevalence of BA.2.86.

The CDC often takes COVID-19 reporting breaks over holiday weekends, and this one is no exception: the agency will not update its dashboard on Monday, according to a note posted at the top of the page. Hospitalizations, test positivity, and other metrics will be updated later in the week.

Of course, the coronavirus doesn’t care about holidays—in fact, it usually spreads more widely when people travel and gather. Fully understanding this Labor Day weekend’s impact could take several weeks, at our current pace of data reporting.

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