National numbers, October 8

Data from WastewaterSCAN’s network of testing sites suggest a recent increase in coronavirus in Northeast states’ wastewater.

During the most recent week of data available (September 24-30), the U.S. reported about 18,100 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 2,600 new admissions each day
  • 5.5 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 6% fewer new admissions than the prior week (September 17-23)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 10.9% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • A 1% higher concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than the prior week (as of September 27, per Biobot’s dashboard)
  • 29% of new cases are caused by Omicron EG.5, 23% by XBB.1.6, 14% by FL.1.5.1 (as of September 30)

After a couple of weeks’ decline, COVID-19 spread in the U.S. may be leveling off ahead of more increases in late fall and winter. We’re seeing plateaus in wastewater data, paired with slight declines in test positivity and hospital indicators.

Biobot’s COVID-19 wastewater dashboard suggests that national COVID-19 spread reached a plateau last week, increasing very slightly from September 20 to September 27. The company’s regional data suggest that this plateau is consistent in all four regions, but the Northeast has significantly higher (and potentially rising) viral levels. It’s worth noting Biobot’s data may have become less comprehensive recently; see below for more details.

The WastewaterSCAN project similarly shows that COVID-19 spread hasn’t changed much at the national level in recent weeks: it is high with no significant trend up or down, according to the project’s assessment. Per WastewaterSCAN, the Northeast and Midwest continue to have more coronavirus transmission than the West and South.

Some Northeast cities are reporting significant upticks in the last week, including South Boston, Portland, Maine, and Montpelier, Vermont (the latter two report to WastewaterSCAN). In past years, late fall/winter surges have started in the Northeast and Midwest, as these regions see colder weather earlier, sometimes paired with the introduction of new variants. It seems likely that a similar trend will occur this year.

In non-wastewater indicators: test positivity from the CDC’s laboratory network continues to trend slightly down, reported at 10.9% for the week ending September 30. Hospitalizations have also dipped slightly, though more than 2,500 people have still been hospitalized daily with COVID-19 in recent weeks.

I wish I could update you about the fall vaccine rollout, but we literally don’t have national data on it, thanks to the end of CDC vaccination reporting requirements tied to the federal public health emergency. The CDC’s last vaccination data update occurred on May 11.

Respiratory virus season is about to start, meaning that other common viruses (flu, RSV, etc.) will join COVID-19 in causing easily preventable illnesses. Remember that masks, ventilation, and shifting activities outdoors help reduce risks of all these viruses, not just SARS-CoV-2.

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