At the national level, COVID-19 spread appears to be approaching another plateau. New cases and hospitalizations (as reported by the CDC) are still in decline, but their descent is slowing: reported cases dropped by 11% this week, compared to 24% last week.
Last week, I wrote that a combination of holiday travel/gatherings and the latest Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, was driving a winter surge. This week, COVID-19 metrics suggest that the surge may have peaked, though we’ll need more data to say for sure—and XBB.1.5 remains a concern.
Well, here we are: the winter COVID-19 surge. It may have happened later than some experts predicted, but the U.S. is clearly now experiencing an uptick in virus transmission as the latest, most contagious Omicron subvariants collide with holiday travel and gatherings.
Last week, COVID-19 case numbers started to indicate that the U.S.’s Omicron surge was turning a corner; this week, cases are clearly on the decline. National new case reports have dropped by about 24% in the past two weeks, from 784,000 new cases a day in mid-January to 597,000 new cases a day last week.
Has Omicron peaked in the U.S.? Looking at the national data, you might think so: new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have dropped 5% from 5.5 million last week to 5.2 million this past week. While those numbers are astronomically high compared to past pandemic waves, it’s encouraging to think that they might not get higher.
The U.S. once again broke COVID-19 records this week, reporting about 5.5 million new cases in total. Last winter, the highest number of cases reported in a single week was about 1.7 million; this past week, the country reported over one million cases just on Monday (though that number included backlogs from the prior weekend).
Omicron continues to drive record cases across the U.S., as we move from tense holiday gatherings to extremely fractured schools and workplaces. This week, the CDC reported 4.1 million new cases—almost double last week’s number, and about 2.5 times the case peak reported during last winter’s surge.
It’s difficult to interpret COVID-19 data in the wake of any major holiday, as public health officials and testing sites alike take well-deserved time off. That said, we have enough data to say that cases are rising incredibly fast across the U.S. The country reported over 300,000 new cases a day this week—the highest seven-day average of the entire pandemic so far. Over 500,000 new cases were reported on Friday alone.
As of January 30, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is under 100,000 for the first time since December 1. Still, this current number is about 60% higher than the peak number of patients hospitalized during either of the U.S.’s previous surges last spring and summer (60,000).