The seven-day average of new cases nationwide fell by 8% in just three days, after reaching nearly 808,000 new cases on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Early signs that the wave could peak across the country could follow on the heels of similar trends in the Northeast last week.
But like local officials in recent days, US officials are cautious not to be too optimistic.
“The next few weeks will be tough,” US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy said on Sunday, and Americans should not expect a national peak anytime soon.
He said that the surge of the Omicron coronavirus variant is not growing at the same pace everywhere across the country.
“There are parts of the country – New York, in particular, and other parts of the Northeast – where we are starting to see a plateau and, in some cases, an initial decline in cases. The challenge is that the whole country is not moving at the same pace. The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country, so we shouldn’t expect a national peak in the next coming days,” Murthy told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Cases are still increasing rapidly in some states. In the past two weeks, average daily cases in Oklahoma and Wisconsin have more than tripled. And according to data from Johns Hopkins, they have more than doubled to more than a dozen others.
An epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at the University of Utah, Dr. Andrew Pavia told CNN that it’s hard for a few reasons to declare what the long-term trends in case rates will be in real time.
Lack of testing is a complicating factor.
“Testing resources are challenged in many places, and there may be a plateau because there is not much capacity for PCR tests,” he said. Many home tests are not even counted in the officially reported figures.
In fact, the daily number of reported COVID-19 tests has dropped by a third in the past week: from an average of 2.4 million tests per day to nearly 1.6 million tests per day, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. . The seven-day average of reported trials is back compared to a month ago, when Omicron was not yet effective in the US.
The most recent days of reporting often have a low count as the data takes hold, but it can be exaggerated especially as the health care system is pushed to the brink.
“Overwhelmed and mindless health departments may lag behind in reporting,” Pavia said.
He also noted that there is fluctuation from day to day because large test events or a few superspreader events can bring about a large cluster of cases at a specific time. And states that lag behind in the timeliness and completeness of their reporting make them challenging to compare.
“Consistency is important over a long enough period to determine a true trend,” he said.
Hospitalizations and deaths lag behind cases
And even though cases are starting to drop, there are still more hospitalizations and deaths to come.
HHS data shows Covid-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise for weeks, with a record high of 159,000 people still hospitalized. There are about 26,000 adults in ICUs with COVID-19, just shy of last year’s peak, and nearly a quarter of hospitals in the US are reporting “critical staffing shortages.”
“In US health care, we know that hospitalizations will probably peak a week after new cases, and deaths will fall even further,” Pavia said.
“I fear that no light at the end of the tunnel is enough for our tired and frustrated health care workers.”
Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Sunday urged Americans to try and take precautions to avoid the virus for the next several weeks, if they can.
“The reality is that most people are going to get covid in their lifetime. I don’t think most people need to get covid within the next month, and anything we can do to protect ourselves – this To the extent that there are people who haven’t been exposed to this virus yet, who have gone out and got vaccinated and are able to protect themselves – you know, if they keep themselves safe for the next several weeks. If we can, we’ll probably be through this omicron wave and then we’ll probably have to deal with it next fall, when we have better equipment available.”