National numbers, November 5

National maps from WastewaterSCAN, showing recent trends in COVID-19 and other viruses.

During the most recent week of data available (October 22-28), the U.S. reported about 15,700 new COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals, according to the CDC. This amounts to:

  • An average of 2,200 new admissions each day
  • 4.8 total admissions for every 100,000 Americans
  • 0.1% more new admissions than the prior week (October 15-21)

Additionally, the U.S. reported:

  • 9% of tests in the CDC’s surveillance network came back positive
  • A 6% higher concentration of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater than the prior week (as of October 25, per Biobot’s dashboard)
  • 25% of new cases are caused by Omicron HV.1, 22% by EG.5, 17% by XBB.1.6, 12% by FL.1.5.1 (as of October 28)

After an early-fall lull in COVID-19 transmission, there are now signs that the coronavirus is starting to spread more as we head into winter (or, respiratory virus season). This slight uptick is expected, but could still be prevented if we had better public health measures in place.

Wastewater surveillance data from both Biobot Analytics and WastewaterSCAN suggest that COVID-19 spread might be increasing again. Biobot’s dashboard shows a 6% increase in sewage coronavirus levels nationally between October 18 and October 25, the most recent week of data available.

WastewaterSCAN’s dashboard similarly shows a slight increase in coronavirus levels, as of October 30. Regional data from both sources suggest that the Northeast and Midwest are seeing more COVID-19 spread than other regions at the moment, though the South might catch up in the coming weeks.

As I’ve discussed over the last couple of weeks, we are currently working with limited wastewater surveillance data: 400 sewage testing sites, about one-quarter of the CDC’s wastewater network, are currently in limbo while government officials navigate a potential switch between testing contractors. (See last week’s National Numbers and my original coverage of the new contract.) Still, we have enough information to identify national trends from wastewater.

Along with the wastewater surveillance data, hospitalization data reported by the CDC show a very slight increase in COVID-19 patients as of October 28. Test positivity and emergency department visits have plateaued after declines over the course of October, as seen in both the CDC’s data and the Walgreens dashboard (which provides data from testing done at this pharmacy chain).

COVID-19 isn’t the only respiratory disease spreading right now. RSV transmission has picked up, according to the CDC’s surveillance: hospitalization rates for this disease have risen sharply over the last month. Similarly to last year, RSV appears to be reaching its peak earlier in the fall than health officials typically expect.

WastewaterSCAN’s data show RSV and flu spread ticking up, particularly in the South. This project’s data align with the CDC’s reports of influenza-like illness, which suggest southern states, Washington D.C., and Alaska now have moderate to high levels of people with flu-like symptoms, compared to low levels in the rest of the country.

While health experts are expecting a lot of respiratory virus spread this winter, these trends aren’t inevitable. All individual and collective measures towards public health—getting vaccinated, wearing masks, testing, prioritizing ventilation—help mitigate these diseases.

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