Wastewater suggests Omicron is receding in US cities

Wastewater treatment plant
Wastewater treatment plant

Steve Soblick / Flickr cc

Samples from wastewater taken from 83 US cities suggests the latest surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant may have already peaked in major urban areas but is on the rise in rural communities.

New York, Boston, Denver, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and San Diego have all likely peaked, according to virus detected in sewage samples. In the Twin Cities, Minnesota Public Radio reports that Omicron cases likely peaked on Jan 10 and have been declining since that date based on sewage samples.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS), "SARS-CoV-2 can be shed in the feces of individuals with symptomatic or asymptomatic infection; therefore, wastewater surveillance can capture data on both types of infection."

In Illinois, Chicago health officials say Omicron cases have likely peaked in their city. According to the Associated Press, test positivity peaked at nearly 20% on Jan 1, and is about 13% this week. Daily cases have dropped to 3,000 per day, down from 8.500 on Jan 4.

The United States reported 979,920 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 3,810 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The totals for the nation stand at 69,062,304 cases, including 859,503 deaths.

Americans perceive pandemic worsening

More Americans are worried about the pandemic now than in the fall of 2021, according to a new Gallup poll conducted from Jan 4 to 11.

Seventy-two percent of Americans reported wearing a mask outside the home that week, and 56% said they were avoiding large crowds. Less than 20% of participants said they had dined in a restaurant in the previous 24 hours,

Attitudes toward vaccination remain stagnant, according to the Gallup poll. The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 63.1% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 75.2% have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 39% of vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose.

Healthcare vaccination rates in question

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced yesterday that all workers in the state's healthcare and high-risk settings will be required to be vaccinated and boosted, with no testing-out option, the Washington Post reports.

Following last week's Supreme Court decision, most healthcare workers in the country will be mandated to get vaccinated against the virus, but US officials still don't know how many hospital workers remain unvaccinated, and the data are sparser when it comes to boosters, Politico reports.

CDC data from December show 77.6% of hospital workers were vaccinated, but those figures come from only 40% of the nation's hospitals.

Other US developments

  • New Mexico yesterday asked National Guard members and state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers to keep the state's schools and daycare centers open during a surge in COVID-19 cases, Reuters reports.

  • Updated National Institutes of Health guidelines no longer recommend Eli Lilly or Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 because of their diminished effectiveness against the Omicron variant, according to CNN.

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