COVID markers decline as US faces uncertain fall

Three syringes
Three syringes

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Most US COVID-19 markers continue slow downward trends, with 7-day averages for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all decreased from the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its last weekly update.

The decline comes as nearly all schools and universities are back in session and with the nation just barely a week into the launch of the updated booster that targets both the original virus and the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 subvariants.

The CDC has urged people getting the updated booster to get vaccinated against flu at the same time. Flu seasons are notoriously unpredictable, though protection from the flu vaccine is known to wane as the season progresses.

Flu activity during the first full COVID-19 year was lower than prepandemic seasons, and last season flu was mild, with activity that came in two waves, one that peaked in December, followed by a second wave that peaked in different parts of the country from the middle of March through May.

COVID cases down 19%, hospitalizations down 10%

As of Sep 7, the 7-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases, at 70,488, has decreased 18.8% compared to the week before. Proportions of the dominant BA.5 Omicron subvariant still make up just over 87% of sequenced samples.

New hospital admissions for COVID decreased 10.5% compared to the previous week, with the country averaging about 4,620 a day.

The 7-day average for new daily fatalities dropped 28.1% compared to the previous week, to about 315 a day. Over much of the summer, about 400 to 500 people were dying from COVID each day.

Meanwhile, the BA.4.6 Omicron subvariant continues to rise very slowly, with proportions last week increasing from 8.3% to 9.2% of sequenced samples. The southern tier of Midwestern states is still seeing the highest proportions of BA.4.6, which made up 17.9% of samples last week.

Only 17% of localities have high transmission

In two snapshots of community COVID transmission, the CDC said only 17.2% counties, districts, or territories have a high community level, down 8.6% percentage points from the previous week. Areas reporting medium community spread also declined, but by a lesser degree.

Of wastewater samples at more than 1,000 test sites across the nation, 56% are showing a decline in SARS-CoV-2 levels, and 38% are reporting an increase. "Currently, most of the country is reporting moderate to high SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater," the CDC, though it added the caveat that small increases when levels are low can look dramatic.

In international developments, COVID activity continues to decline overall, but activity in Ukraine id rising. At a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) European regional office today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, warned that transmission in Ukraine could peak in early October and could push hospital capacity.

He also said oxygen shortages could occur, because major supply sources are located occupied parts of the country.

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