National numbers, October 15

Coronavirus levels are high in the Northeast and medium in other regions, according to WastewaterSCAN.

During the most recent week of data available (October 1-7), the U.S. reported about 16,800 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 2,400 new admissions each day
  • 5.1 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 8% fewer new admissions than the prior week (September 24-30)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 10.1% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • 24% of new cases are caused by Omicron EG.5, 20% by XBB.1.6, 20% by HV.1, 14% by FL.1.5.1 (as of October 14)

COVID-19 data signals point to a continued lull in transmission across the U.S., ahead of likely increases as the weather gets colder. The Northeast is still reporting higher COVID-19 levels than other regions, according to wastewater and test positivity data.

National wastewater surveillance patterns suggest that coronavirus spread is trending slightly downward, according to WastewaterSCAN’s dashboard. Viral levels are high in the Northeast and medium in the other major regions, per WastewaterSCAN’s metrics, with sites in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine reporting upticks.

Wastewater data from Boston and New York City similarly show recent coronavirus increases. As I noted last week, these Northeast cities are frequently the first sites of late fall/winter surges, as colder temperatures contribute to more indoor gatherings.

Biobot Analytics, typically one of my main sources of wastewater data, hasn’t updated its COVID-19 dashboard since October 2. The company is currently “making some improvements to [its] data infrastructure,” leading to less frequent updates at this time, a representative from Biobot wrote on Twitter last week. Data updates are planned on October 20 and November 3.

Biobot’s data infrastructure updates might be related to the CDC contract change (which I covered last week), though the Twitter post didn’t mention this specifically. The CDC’s wastewater dashboard, while missing updates from a couple hundred sites as they switch contractors, also shows higher COVID-19 spread in the Northeast.

The CDC’s test positivity data similarly report a continued lull at the national level: about 10% of tests in the agency’s lab testing network reported positive results in the week ending October 7, compared to a high of 15% in late August. Test positivity, like wastewater data, suggests higher spread in New England states and New York/New Jersey, as well as in some Midwest states, compared to other regions.

Variant surveillance by the CDC suggests that most cases in the U.S. are still caused by a variety of XBB.1.5 relatives: EG.5, HV.1, XBB.1.6, etc. This is a good time to get one of the updated COVID-19 vaccines, which are designed to target XBB.1.5, if you haven’t already. BA.2.86, a variant of interest that emerged a few weeks ago, hasn’t shown up in major numbers yet, but is beginning to appear in the CDC’s data and may drive more spread later in the fall.

Flu season has officially started, as of this week. Influenza-like illness (i.e. numbers of patients who go to their doctors’ offices with respiratory symptoms) is currently at lower levels than it was at this time last year, but is starting to “creep up,” Dr. Katelyn Jetelina wrote in a recent newsletter. Last year’s respiratory virus season “hit early and hard,” she said; we’ll see what happens this year.

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