We are beginning to see the impacts of colder weather and new variants this week, as both official COVID-19 cases and new hospital admissions went up slightly: increasing by 6% and 5% from the prior week, respectively. Wastewater monitoring similarly shows an uptick in coronavirus transmission at the national level, according to Biobot’s dashboard. The Northeast still has the highest virus concentration, but other regions of the country are catching up.
Last month, the CDC started publishing data from a surveillance program focused on international travelers coming into the U.S. I talked to bioinformatics experts involved with the program to learn more about how it works.
Continuing a trend from the last few weeks, nationwide COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still at plateaus or trending very slightly downward. We aren’t clearly in a fall surge yet, but concerning newer Omicron subvariants are rising—along with other respiratory diseases.
The national COVID-19 picture continues to be somewhat murky, thanks in part to poor-quality data. Both nationwide cases and new hospital admissions trended slightly upward in the last week (by 2% and 1%, respectively); this could reflect the beginnings of fall surges in some places, but it’s hard to say for sure.
Official COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop nationwide, according to the CDC, but I remain concerned that a fall surge is coming soon. New subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are particularly worth watching.
When the CDC updated its variant prevalence estimates this week, the agency added new versions of Omicron to the dashboard. In the U.S., COVID-19 cases are now driven by: BA.5, BA.4.6, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BF.7, BA.2.75, and BA.2.75.2. And possibly more subvariants that we aren’t tracking yet.
Omicron BF.7, an offshoot of BA.5, is the latest subvariant to raise red flags among experts tracking COVID-19 in the U.S. This week, BF.7 passed BA.2.75, another worrying lineage, in the CDC’s prevalence estimates: the CDC found that it caused about 2.3% of new cases nationwide in the week ending September 24.
Officially-reported COVID-19 cases are still on the decline nationwide this week, as are newly hospitalized patients (a more reliable metric). About 4,400 people with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals across the country, compared to over 6,000 a day in late July. But wastewater data are suggesting a potential new surge.
BA.2.75, a newer subvariant that evolved from BA.2, has been driving increased coronavirus transmission in some other countries recently. This lineage has yet to be identified in large numbers in the U.S., but I was inspired by a recent reader question to share what we’ve learned about it since my previous post in July.