Following the same pattern we’ve seen for the last few weeks, COVID-19 spread is still on the decline nationally. Official case counts, hospital admissions, and wastewater surveillance data all continue to point in this direction.
Nationwide, COVID-19 spread appears to be in a plateau: not substantially increasing, but not substantially decreasing, either. Officially-reported cases dropped by only 1% this week compared to the week prior, while wastewater data shows that the coronavirus concentration in our sewage hasn’t changed significantly for the last month.
COVID-19 spread in the U.S. continues to decline—but the decline continues to get slower, following the trend that I wrote about last week. Official COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions, and wastewater surveillance all indicate decreased transmission, leading into potential plateaus.
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.
XBB.1.5 is the latest Omicron subvariant to spread rapidly through the U.S. It is, of course, more transmissible and more capable of evading immunity from past infections than other versions of Omicron that have gone before it, as this lineage continues mutating. Scientists are still learning about XBB.1.5; it emerged from the U.S. during the holiday season, which has posed surveillance challenges. But we know enough to say that this variant is bad news for an already overstretched healthcare system.
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.
After a significant post-Thanksgiving spike, COVID-19 transmission in the U.S. appears to be in a high plateau, according to trends in cases and wastewater. Official case counts stayed fairly steady this week compared to the week following the holiday, according to the CDC, while wastewater data from Biobot show coronavirus concentrations leveling out.
If the U.S. wasn’t at the start of a COVID-19 surge before Thanksgiving, we’re certainly in one now. While official case counts have stagnated, wastewater surveillance indicates that the country is seeing about 1.5 times the coronavirus transmission that we had three weeks ago, according to data from Biobot.