People’s CDC COVID-19 Weather Report





A big congratulations to Jane Thomason of National Nurses United (NNU) and Lisa Baum of New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) for being invited to serve on the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). Many remember NNU’s massive efforts to prevent the HICPAC from advancing dangerous new guidelines. Those efforts not only put a temporary halt on the proposal, it also led to the committee being told to reorganize in a way which broadened expertise and representation. We thank Jane and are so comforted knowing patients have an ally in their corner. Check out NNU’s press release for more information.


On Mask Bans and Solidarity


In mid-May, North Carolina’s House of Representatives and Senate each passed versions of a bill which banned most mask use in public. After massive public push back, the House returned the bill for revisions, especially regarding the medical exclusion. But the fight isn’t over yet in North Carolina. And, mask restrictions are now being pushed elsewhere. Alderman Lopez of Chicago’s 15th Ward just introduced one to Chicago City Council.  And, the Ohio Attorney General advised public universities that student protestors who wear masks could be charged with felonies under an archaic anti-mask law.


Mask bans are a terrifying threat to everyone’s health and safety, as well as our right to privacy. They violate our constitutional rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they have a chilling effect on the exercise of our first amendment rights. These policies directly violate personal freedoms and prevent us from being able to protect ourselves and others. They are an egregious overstep on behalf of extreme right wing forces to erase and to criminalize our efforts to care for ourselves and others. We’ve seen them criminalize community care with abortion and trans healthcare. This is the same political project, and it must be resisted. See the Take Action section to get involved in mask ban resistance.

An illustration of a wavy-haired person in a black face mask and keffiyeh with a black rectangle above reading “Mask Up, We Need You” in white block letters. Underneath, black letters read “Palestinian Solidarity, COVID-19 and the struggle for liberation”.


Have y’all seen this zine? Palestinian Solidarity, COVID-19, and the Struggle for Liberation made by Sheyam Ghieth and Rimona Eskayo. Check it out, print it, share it!


The Weather


The CDC’s reported COVID wastewater levels by state show that viral activity is currently “Very High” in Hawaii and “High” in Utah, Wyoming, and Maine. Wastewater levels are “Low” or “Minimal” across all other reporting states and territories as of May 23, with no data available from North Dakota, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam.


A map of the United States color-coded in shades of orange and gray displaying SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Viral Activity level as of May 23, 2024, where deeper tones correlate to higher viral activity and gray indicates “Insufficient,” or “No Data.” Viral activity is “Very High” or “High” in 4 states. Wastewater levels are “Low” or “Minimal” in other reporting states and territories, with no data available from 2 states and 3 territories. Text above map reads “High levels in Utah, Maine and Wyoming, Very High levels in Hawaii People’s CDC. Source: CDC.”


Graphic source: CDC


Wastewater levels continue to plateau except in the West, where they are increasing. Overall, national wastewater levels are about where they were this time last year, indicating ongoing viral spread amid continued rollbacks in public health resources and guidance since the end of the Public Health Emergency last year. The CDC estimates that COVID rates are increasing in 12 states and the District of Columbia, predicted via modeling based on emergency department data. 


A line graph with the title, “COVID-19 Wastewater Trends 5/18/2024” with “Wastewater Viral Activity Level” indicated on the left-hand vertical axis, going from 0-3, and “Week Ending” across the horizontal axis, with date labels ranging from 4/06/24 to 5/04/24, with the graph extending through 5/18/24. A key at the bottom indicates line colors. National is black, Midwest is orange, South is purple, Northeast is light blue, and West is green. Overall, levels have trended downward and plateaued. Within the gray-shaded provisional data provided for the last 2 weeks, wastewater levels in the West appear to be significantly rising. Text above the graph reads “Continue Precautions During Lower Wastewater Levels. Text below: People’s CDC. Source: CDC.”


Graphic source: CDC


Please remember, you can still be infected during times of lower wastewater COVID levels. Precautions including consistent masking in all public spaces are still necessary in our daily lives to reduce the risk of infection, to prevent Long COVID, and to practice community care. We caution that peaks usually rise from lulls like this, especially as no national public health policies are currently in place to keep wastewater levels low, and that levels could rise again at any time.


On H5N1 Bird Flu


Bird flu continues to spread in animals across the world, with 58 dairy farms across 9 states having confirmed cases in the US this year. Last week, Michigan State University released a case study report on an H5N1 bird flu outbreak. Here are the key findings:
– 40% of lactating herd infected within 16 days of first case detection

– Cows had fevers, dehydration, sunken eyes, decreased milk production, and spontaneous abortions

– Cattle breeding put on hold

– Estimated costs up to $40,000 for the herd of 500


Thus, bird flu has a substantial impact on dairy farms and proactive measures to prevent and contain infections in animals are worthwhile. The USDA recently announced several measures to financially assist dairy farms in detecting, preventing and containing infections. However, many dairy workers do not have access to basic PPE


Wearing high-quality masks like an N95 can help protect you from bird flu. Recent reports of human cases suggest eyes may also be a route of infection. If interacting with farm animals or wildlife, recommended PPE includes N95, goggles, boots/boot covers, disposable gloves, coveralls, and head/hair cover. See the CDC’s website for a summary of the current H5N1 bird flu outbreak


Contact national, state, and local elected officials to ask them to take action to expand testing of livestock and farm workers, to enforce appropriate provision of PPE, and to provide support for healthcare and financially supported isolation for sick farm workers.


Take Action


As of April 30, 2024, hospitals are no longer required to report COVID cases to the CDC. Take action to reinstate COVID hospitalization reporting. A proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would require COVID, influenza, and RSV hospitalization reporting outside of a public health emergency on a weekly basis. Public comment on this rule is due June 10. While you’re at it, also write your elected officials to let them know that the public should not be kept in the dark on COVID hospitalizations.


There’s a lot to do on mask bans right now. Please pick a few of these to do and pass along this list to two or three other ppl you know (maybe along with the zine above!).


  1. Wear a mask. To prevent COVID and Long COVID, EVERYONE should be masking in public with good-filtering, close-fitting respirator masks. We are all at risk ourselves, and we all pose risks to other people. So, wear an N95 mask in public spaces. If you are organizing an event – particularly a political event – require and distribute high quality masks for all. If you have stopped masking in public, this is a great time to re-engage the practice. Our opposition to this fascism must be made visible. There is safety in numbers. We keep us safe
  2. If you live in North Carolina, call your state representatives and state senators. Use this call guide by Triangle Mask Bloc and use NC Megaphone’s tool to email all the State House and Senate representatives at once. Tell them mask bans are dangerous and unconstitutional. 
  3. If you live outside of North Carolina, call the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill Chambers of Commerce. Tell them you will not be traveling to North Carolina so long as they continue to consider mask bans. You can use the NC Megaphone tool above to do the same.
  4. If you live in Chicago, call and email Alderman Lopez who proposed the mask ban there, and your own alderman and tell them that you oppose it in its entirety.
  5. Call your own elected officials, wherever you are. Ask if they have heard of any plans to introduce mask bans in your state, and register your dissent. Tell them: “Mask bans are a dangerous violation of our rights. All of us, and especially those who are disabled and immunocompromised, need to be able to freely protect ourselves in our daily lives. Mask bans will make public space even more unsafe and inaccessible.” A brief personal note about how mask bans would impact you, your loved ones, or others in your community makes your comment even more impactful.
  6. Connect with your local mask blocs or other local groups supporting COVID prevention.

Notes: 1) The numbers in this report were current as of 5/24/2024. 2) Changes in testing access as well as data reporting have led many federal data sources to become less reliable. 3) Check out the links throughout & see our website for more! 4) Subscribe to our newsletter: People’s CDC | Substack.

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