People’s CDC COVID-19 Weather Report


The Weather: Although transmission levels have calmed since the recent surge, 82.6% of the population continues to live in areas of substantial or higher transmission. Layers of protection remain necessary to reduce the likelihood and severity of a winter surge.

Map and table show COVID community transmission in the US by county, with High broken into 3 subcategories: High, Very High, and Extremely High. Transmission is indicated via shades of pale yellow to red to black, with the darkest shade indicating areas of Extremely High transmission, and the palest shade representing Low to Moderate. Text indicates that 82.6% percent of the US population lives in an area with substantial or higher COVID transmission level, which is also represented via the three darkest shades of red covering most of the map itself. Most of the country is experiencing High transmission, at 43.79 percent of counties representing 43.59 percent of the population; 25.68 percent of counties representing 37.99 percent of the population are experiencing substantial transmission. Only 28.17 percent of counties, representing 17.40 percent of the population, are experiencing Low to Moderate transmission. High transmission is seen most consistently currently in the northeast (New England, NY State, and PA), with other regions having more internally-variable transmission rates. The graphic is visualized by the People’s CDC with data from the CDC.

On Variants: BA.5 remains the most commonly circulating variant at 67.9%, followed by BA.4.6 at 12.2%. 

In previous reporting from the CDC, two sublineages, BQ.1.1 and BQ.1, were aggregated with BA.5 itself; this is the first week we’ve seen them broken out.

Newly updated data shows BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 represented only 2% of variants from 9/25 to 10/1 and 5.7% of variants from 10/2 to 10/8. This week, they represent 11.4% of currently circulating variants. 

These new subvariants of BA.5 are particularly concerning given their “immune escaping” abilities. BA.2.75.2, an emerging subvariant of BA.2.75 and currently at about 1% of variants, exhibits similar abilities.

A bar chart shows data for the weeks of 7/16/2022 through 10/15/2022 with levels for each viral lineage shown vertically. Since late June, BA.5 has been the dominant lineage, growing from about 42 percent of cases to just over 80 percent by August and peaking in mid August at about 86 percent. Since then, it continues to recede, but at present still makes up about 67.9 percent of cases. Two new lineages are included. Both BQ.1.1 (dark green) and BQ.1 (medium green) grew to 5.7 percent this week, representing 11.4 percent of cases together.
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Wastewater Monitoring: National wastewater levels appear to have remained relatively stable over the past week; unfortunately, these data remain high, and demonstrate an ongoing undercount of official case counts.

A graph shows weekly wastewater viral concentration & daily clinical cases for the last 6 months. At the top left is a legend. The top line, in solid blue, is viral concentration in copies per milliliter of sewage. The bottom line, in light blue, represents a daily average of clinical cases & is more erratic and relatively plateaued. Bars in the same light blue color represent the total amount of clinical daily cases. The wastewater increases from May 2022 to its peak in late July 2022, then decreases with a smaller spike in September 2022. In the last couple weeks, there is a slight increase in wastewater concentration. Bottom text reads Source: Wastewater data from Biobot Analytics, Inc; Clinical data from USAFacts.
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Regionally, wastewater data show an increase in the northeast when compared to last week. 

A line graph shows average weekly wastewater COVID viral concentration in four US regions over the last 6 months. At the top left is a legend with text Week of October 12, 2022. Four different lines are shown, each line representing the four regions, and indicates viral concentration in copies per milliliter of sewage. On the right a region map shows the green line as West, purple as Midwest, red as South and yellow as Northeast. Beginning in May 2022, Northeast is at the highest, second is Midwest, third is South, and fourth is West. From May to October, Northeast has three major spikes and continues to increase, Midwest has one major spike and a recent dip, West has one major spike and a recent dip, and South has one major spike and a recent slight increase. The end of the graph shows Northeast with the highest at 1313 and the three other regions at a lower level and closer together with Midwest at 456, West at 447, and South at 414. Data from Biobot Analytics.
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This may be due to some combination of people heading indoors as the months get colder, the rise of new more highly transmissible subvariants, and/or the continued abandonment of the people by the state and government. 

The specific reasons for this increase in cases will be made clearer in the coming weeks; in the meantime, we know increases in the northeast region are often helpful in predicting increases in other regions. COVID is far from over.

Hospitalizations: Hospitalizations continue to decrease for nearly all age groups except for those aged 70+, whose hospitalizations levels appear to have remained stable since last week’s report. 

A line chart representing new admissions of patients to hospitals with confirmed COVID in the United States over time. The chart has “United States, All Ages,” as its title, “New Admissions per 100,000 Population” on its y axis, and dates from January 2021 to July 2022 on its x axis, though actual dates range from August 2020 to August 2022. The dotted line represents new admissions of patients with confirmed COVID in the US over time across all age ranges. The line indicates peak hospitalizations occurred in January 2021 and January 2022, with smaller peaks happening in August 2021 and July 2022. At its latest data point, the line indicates that hospitalizations are currently moving in a downward trend.
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Deaths: From October 6 to October 12, at least 2,200 people died of COVID nationally. Over 233,000 people have died from COVID in the US this year – so far.

On Long COVID: A new study of Long COVID finds that between 6 to 18 months after symptomatic infection, nearly half of those infected report incomplete recovery or no recovery at all.

Another study identifies fatigue, neurocognitive impairment, and chest symptoms among key symptom clusters of Long COVID, with significant impact on people’s health and working capacity.

In a stunning visual essay published in this week, Savannah Brooks chronicles her experiences with Long COVID as a former athlete, describing herself as “an example of what’s at stake for anyone who contracts Covid, no matter how fit.”

Forecast: A new study shows just how poorly the CDC and other state agencies have been at tailoring their epidemiological research to the ongoing needs presented by the pandemic. 

The authors note much of the work put out by these agencies have done little to help develop or measure the effectiveness of mitigation strategies. Better data is just one of many things we need from the state in order to prevent what is likely to be a winter surge. 

The new bivalent boosters are now authorized for children as young as five years old. The CDC recommends getting the bivalent booster at least two months after your last dose.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 40% of adults who’ve had their initial COVID vaccines are “not sure” if they should get the updated bivalent boosters; this demonstrates the ongoing failure of the state to provide adequate guidance. 

New human trial data from Pfizer shows that  their updated boosters provide substantial protection against the BA.5 subvariant.

Unlike in Moderna’s similar study, Pfizer did not compare efficacy against BA.5 with efficacy against older, now-uncommon subvariants. 

To check whether you’re recommended to get an updated booster, you can use the widget available about halfway down this page on the CDC’s website.

Take Action: Newly circulating immune-escaping variants, along with poor public health guidance from the state and little to no funding or urgency from the federal government, means we are likely to see a winter surge

In addition to COVID, health officials in the US are also predicting a particularly brutal flu season.

Masks remain a critical tool in protecting ourselves and others from these and other respiratory illnesses. And resources such as the Corsi-Rosenthal box – which we also linked to in last week’s report – allow us to improve air quality in shared indoor spaces.

Sign this petition calling on Amtrak to designate “mask-only” cars on their trains to protect passengers from COVID.

Please also sign this petition demanding mask requirements at essential services – including public transit, healthcare settings, and government offices. 

We should not have to DIY our “tools” in the midst of a public health crisis. Join us in pushing for public health solutions such as better ventilation and filtration infrastructure, free and easily accessible testing and high-quality masks, and universal paid time off. 

Notes: 1) The numbers in this report were current as of 10/17. The CDC updates data frequently as it receives refreshed information. Today’s numbers may be slightly different from the data here. 2) Check out the links throughout & see our website for more!

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