COVID-19 metrics trend down across US

neg test

 Verin Makcharoen/iStock

Today in its weekly update on COVID-19 activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said several markers of the virus were trending downward, including emergency department visits and test positivity.

Test positivity from September 24 to September 30 was 10.9%, down 1.2% from the previous week, and emergency department visits dropped to 1.6%, down 14.5% from the previous week. Deaths, however, while still at low levels, were up 3.8%.

In total 18,139 people were admitted to the hospital in the last week of September for COVID-19, down 6% from the previous week. Hospitalization hot spots include communities in Montana, Idaho, Missouri, and Kansas.

Those are the only states with a high rate of hospitalizations in some counties.

Overall, the summer spike in activity seen in August and early September has seemed to wane. As seen last week, data from wastewater analytics Biobot show a decline in SARS-CoV-2 levels.

Next week the CDC will release its variant projections. Last week, variants EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 made up about 40% of sequenced samples.

Testing strategies may affect incidence data

In other COVD news, yesterday in Eurosurveillance, researchers published a study comparing COVID-19 national surveillance systems as they existed in mid-May 2021 in six European countries.

Data on the number of COVID-19 tests and positive cases registered from week 13 (March 29 to April 4) and week 30 (July 26 to August 1) were collected from national public health organization websites or the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and verified by individual country representatives.

Belgium, England, France, Italy, Romania, and Sweden participated in the study. The authors calculated the average number of tests per 1,000 population per day, the test-positivity rate (number of cases divided by the number of tests) and the average 7-day incidence per 100,000 population by week over the study period, and the proportion of real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) among all tests.

England averaged 17.4 tests per 1,000 population per day, the most of any country, while Romania was the lowest, with 1.3 tests per 1,000 per day. The disease incidence per 100,000 population per week was highest in France (148), followed by England (139), Sweden (125), Belgium (117), Italy (75), and Romania (40).

The highest testing rates were observed in England, where antigenic tests were free and easily accessible to all.

In Belgium and Sweden, 90% and 95% of tests used, respectively, were RT-PCR. Outside of England, no country recorded the results of at-home antigenic testing into national databases, the authors said.

"The highest testing rates were observed in England, where antigenic tests were free and easily accessible to all," the authors wrote. "The second highest testing rates were observed in France, where both RT-PCR and antigenic tests were free for everyone. The lowest testing rates were reported in Romania, where contacts were not eligible for free testing, contrary to other countries in the study.

"Our study highlighted the difficulty of direct country comparisons of COVID-19 incidence rates and showed important differences in testing rates due in part to systematic differences in surveillance systems."

This week's top reads