Covid infection rates are ALREADY falling in parts of the US just weeks after uptick spooked Americans into masking up again

  • Wastewater surveillance data suggests Covid cases are peaking in some areas
  • Cases are still on the rise in the Northeast and Midwest, the data suggests
  • READ MORE: Now the CDC wants to monitor your POOP to track flu outbreaks

Covid cases in the US may have already peaked just weeks into the latest upswing in infections, data suggests.  

Scientists tracking the virus’ spread by testing sewage nationwide say the number of samples coming back positive has dropped 5 percent in the past week.

Dr Cristin Young, an epidemiologist involved in the wastewater surveillance project, said: ‘All fingers crossed this wave is plateauing and may be declining.’

If true, it would bring an end to several months of rising infection levels – spurred on by two highly infectious new variants – Eris, or EG.5, and Pirola, or BA.2.86.

The sharp uptick – which never translated into a big rise in deaths or ICU admissions – spooked many hospitals, schools, and businesses into requiring masks again. 

Americans wear face masks as they wait in line to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Some colleges and businesses are reinstating mask mandates as Covid cases rise in the US

Weekly Covid hospitalizations are increasing, according to the latest CDC data

Weekly Covid hospitalizations are increasing, according to the latest CDC data

Deaths are starting to decrease again, however

Deaths are starting to decrease again, however

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown an increase in cases, which are fueled by the Eris and BA.2.86 variants.

However, wastewater samples show declines in mid-Atlantic states like Virginia and Maryland. The government is now relying on this data after scrapping mass testing and infection tracking. 

Collection sites in the Midwest and Northeast, on the other hand, show a steady increase in Covid spread. Experts believe this is due to school starting again, which has become common in the past three years.

Dr Amy Kirby, head of the CDC’s wastewater monitoring program, told NBC News: ‘We have seen enough data over the years to know that around the time when school starts, we will start seeing some increases.’

These are expected to ‘plateau and then come back down’ before another winter surge.

Wastewater surveillance has ‘demonstrated benefit as a robust, highly adaptable platform for community-level surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 transmission,’ a report by the CDC said last week. 

Now that testing for Covid has largely been scrapped, wastewater surveillance is one of the only ways officials are tracking the spread of the virus in the US.

In a pilot study during last year’s flu and RSV season, concentrations of the RSV and flu in wastewater samples from three major Wisconsin cities were collected and compared to the number of ER department visits related to the viruses in the area.

Flu and RSV are not universally tested for, so wastewater could be an important early warning sign.

Anybody infected with a virus sheds tiny fragments of its DNA in their poo.

Higher concentrations in sewage were linked to more ER department visits to do with flu and RSV.

Higher concentrations of the viruses in wastewater often preceded ER visits and indicated that a rise was on its way, the CDC said.

This could be used as an effective warning system for ER medical staff of a forthcoming outbreak in the area.

‘Hopefully with updated vaccinations, we will not see a big winter surge as we have in the past,’ Dr Kirby said. ‘But it’s really too early to tell.’

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