US COVID markers decline amid XBB subvariant shifts

empty hospital room

A&J Fotos / iStock

The measures that federal health officials use to track COVID patterns continue to decline, as multiple Omicron XBB subvariants continue to erode the dominance of XBB.1.5.

In other developments, Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, announced yesterday that he is leaving his post as the White House COVID-19 coordinator.

US markers stay low

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in updates yesterday that both of its main measures for tracking virus trends declined: The hospital admission rate for COVID declined 6.2% over the past week, and Texas is the only state that has a few counties in the red zone. Deaths from the virus dropped 14.3% over the past week.

Early indicators also declined, including test positivity, which nationally is at 4.2%. So far, there are no major differences in test positivity among the US regions. Emergency department visits for COVID declined 1.4% compared to the week before. And over the past 7 days, only a few wastewater testing locations showed virus levels in the high range.

Tracking subvariant shifts

The CDC also posted its latest variant proportion estimates, which show that the level of XBB.1.5 has declined from 54.4% to 39.9%. A group of other Omicron XBB subvariants continue to gain ground, including XBB.1.16, XBB.1.9.1, XBB.1.16.1, XBB.1.9.2, and XBB.2.3.

Federal health officials are closely watching the variant shifts, especially ahead of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory committee meeting on Jun 15 to select the strains to include in COVID vaccines for fall immunization.

Jha to exit White House post

President Biden yesterday announced that White House COVID coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, is stepping down and praised Jha for his service. "As one of the leading public health experts in America, he has effectively translated and communicated complex scientific challenges into concrete actions that helped save and improve the lives of millions of Americans."

Jha took on his duties in March 2022. The United States recently ended the national health emergency for COVID, and the World Health Organization (WHO) last month said the situation no longer warrants a public health emergency of international concern. Jha will return to his job as dean of the Brown University School of Public Health on Jul 1, according to the school.

On Twitter, Jha said it been an honor to serve the American people and the president in the fight against COVID. He said the nation currently has some of the lowest rates of hospitalizations and deaths since the start of the pandemic, plus widely available tools to help fight the virus. "The Public Health Emergency is over but COVID isnt. The work continues."

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