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Wastewater data suggests possible COVID decline in some areas

September 20, 2023 – The summer-long surge in COVID-19 cases could have peaked in some parts of the U.S., in line with wastewater monitoring.

Average levels of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, in wastewater have dropped by about 5% in comparison with last week, in line with NBC News reportedciting data from wastewater samples collected at 257 locations nationwide by Biobot Analytics.

“We're all keeping our fingers crossed that this wave will plateau and maybe even subside,” biobot epidemiologist Cristin Young, PhD, MPH, told NBC News.

A University of North Carolina laboratory has seen a recent decline at its 12 monitoring sites, while other monitoring programs within the Midwest and Northeast have seen a rise, the news agency said.

Another nationwide monitoring program, covering 183 sites in 36 states, reports no decline in virus levels in wastewater.

“What we are currently observing is a kind of ‘flattening,'” says Dr. Marlene Wolfe, assistant professor of environmental health at Emory University and program director for WastewaterSCANsaid NBC News. “We haven't seen a real downturn yet.”

The CDC currently estimates COVID-19 activity and the spread of the virus based on wastewater monitoring, the number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, and the number of individuals dying from the disease. All of those measures are likely to be lagging indicators of the impact of COVID-19 on the community level.

In the week ending September 9, 20,538 people were hospitalized with COVID nationwide, which is about six hospitalizations per 100,000 people. Since the tip of June, the variety of hospitalizations has increased every week.

Of the three,227 counties monitored by the CDC, about 88% had low or decreasing hospitalization rates in comparison with the previous week. There were 27 counties with increases in hospitalizations that were classified as high, and people counties were in Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.