Covid infection rates are ALREADY falling in parts of the US just weeks after uptick spooked Americans into masking up again
Covid cases in the US may have already peaked just weeks after the latest surge in infections, data suggests.
Scientists tracking the spread of the virus by analyzing wastewater across the country say the number of positive samples has dropped 5% over the past week.
Dr Cristin Young, an epidemiologist involved in the wastewater monitoring project, said: “All fingers crossed this wave is stagnating and could be in decline. »
If true, it would end several months of rising infection levels – driven by two new, highly contagious variants, Eris, or EG.5, and Pirola, or BA.2.86.
That sharp rise — which never translated into a sharp increase in deaths or intensive care admissions — prompted many hospitals, schools and businesses to require masks again.
Americans wear masks while waiting in line to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Some colleges and businesses are reinstating mask mandates as Covid cases rise in the United States
Scientists tracking the spread of the virus by testing wastewater across the country say the number of samples coming back positive has dropped 5% over the past week (shown)
This decline is due to fewer positive samples in Mid-Atlantic states like Virginia and Maryland. In contrast, collection sites in the Midwest and Northeast show a steady increase in the spread of Covid.
Dr. Young and his team at Biobot Analytics are using wastewater from 257 sites across the country to track the spread of the virus – a technique pioneered during the pandemic.
Their results show that in the week to September 13, new daily Covid cases were estimated at around 60,000, a drop of around 5% in a week.
This decline is due to fewer positive samples in Mid-Atlantic states like Virginia and Maryland.
Collection sites in the Midwest and Northeast, on the other hand, are showing a steady increase in Covid spread.
Biobot’s findings are supported by surveillance in North Carolina, said Jessica Schlueter, an associate professor in the department of bioinformatics and genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
She is responsible for testing wastewater at a dozen sites in her state.
The increase in Covid sewage samples over the past six months “seems to be peaking and starting to decline,” she said, which could lead to a drop in cases.
Official data shows the rate of increase in Covid-related hospitalizations has also slowed, having increased by 7.7% in the latest week for which data is available – marking the slowest rise since early July, when hospitalizations were at an all-time high.
The latest data shows there were 20,538 Covid admissions to US hospitals in the week to September 9.
There are also signs that Covid deaths are starting to stabilize.
A total of 844 were recorded in the week to August 19, the latest available. Data for the following week is incomplete, but it currently suggests that 860 virus-related deaths were recorded during this period, an increase of 1.8 percent.
But not everyone is so optimistic.
Dr. Amy Kirby, manager of the CDC’s wastewater surveillance program, said NBC News: “We’ve seen enough data over the years to know that by the time school starts, we’ll start to see increases.”
These should “level up and then come back down” before a new winter surge, she warned.
Wastewater surveillance has “demonstrated its benefits as a robust and highly adaptable platform for community-level surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” a CDC report said last week.
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Now that Covid testing has been largely abandoned, wastewater monitoring is one of the only ways officials are tracking the spread of the virus in the United States.
In a pilot study during last year’s flu and RSV season, concentrations of RSV and flu in wastewater samples from three large Wisconsin cities were collected and compared to the number of virus-related emergency department visits in the region.
Influenza and RSV are not universally tested for, so sewage could be an important early warning sign.
Anyone infected with a virus sheds tiny fragments of their DNA in their feces.
Higher concentrations in wastewater were linked to more flu- and RSV-related emergency room visits.
Higher concentrations of virus in wastewater often preceded emergency room visits and indicated an increase was underway, the CDC said.
This could be used as an effective alert system for emergency medical personnel of an impending outbreak in the area.
“I hope that with the vaccination update, we won’t see a big winter surge like we have in the past,” Dr. Kirby said. “But it’s really too early to tell.”