US levels of SARS-CoV-2 circulation, associated illnesses, and deaths have been decreasing, but rising reporting delays due to holidays warrant caution.
“Recent declines in all indicators should be interpreted with caution as reporting delays increased due to the holidays and a rise in the number of COVID-19 illnesses,” warned the CDC in the most recent surveillance summary of US coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) activity for the week ending January 16, 2021 (week 2).
Updated on January 22, 2021, the summary showed that the overall percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 decreased during week 2 (11.9%) compared to week 1 (14.7%), ending January 9, 2021. The percent positivity decrease was among all age groups and in all 10 Health and Human Services regions.
The percentage of visits to outpatient providers or emergency departments decreased for COVID-19-like illness and influenza-like illness during week 2 compared with week 1, but “had shown increasing trends from late September 2020 through early January 2021,” cautioned the agency in the report.
The overall cumulative COVID-19-related hospitalization rate through week 2 was 380.3 hospitalizations per 100 000 population, an increase from week 1, which was 364.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 population.
Although COVID-19-related hospitalizations have increased, the weekly percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased between week 2 (14.7%) and week 1 (17.2%). However, the CDC is expecting to see an increase in PIC-related deaths as additional death certificates are processed.
What states specifically are seeing sustained declines in new COVID-19 cases?
According to the New York Times, which uses data from state and local health agencies, 43 states are reporting decreases in COVID-19 cases as of January 28, 2021. These states include previous hot spots such as California, New York, and Texas.