25.09.2022

Infections and testing positivity rate plateau after Memorial Day

America’s sixth Covid wave is already slowing down, experts say, as cases plateau eight days after Memorial Day celebrations which some feared would re-ignite a surge and the test positivity rate falls.

Statistics from health departments around America showed the seven-day average for daily infections fell for the second day in a row Wednesday to 105,000. Figures hit a peak of 120,000 per day on June 6.

The test positivity rate — proportion of swabs that pick up the virus — is also dropping nationally up to June 5, the latest date available, and falling in the central state of five out of nine health regions that are providing the data. It only appears to be rising in the regions centered on Missouri and Colorado.

After viewing the data Dr Jessica Justman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told DailyMail.com: ‘The most recent “wave” of cases in the U.S. appears to be plateauing.’

Dr Tom Inglesby, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, added: ‘We do seem to be at a national plateau in a surge driven by the Omicron sub-variant.’

But both experts warned that another uptick in cases could be sparked by new Omicron subvariants — named BA.4 and BA.5 — which are gaining ground in the country. Both are more transmissible than the original Omicron and have sparked surges in South Africa and Portugal, among other countries, which did not have an uptick due to BA.2.12.1 that triggered America’s current wave, but there is no evidence they are more deadly. Studies suggest the variants are able to dodge antibodies from previous infections.

Covid deaths are also trending downwards nationwide with the seven-day average now at 324 every 24 hours, down 46 percent on the same time last week. Daily hospitalizations rose six percent on average last week compared to the previous seven-day spell with about 4,000 people now being admitted.

It comes amid warnings approval of Novavax’s Covid jab could be delayed because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing changes in the manufacturing process. The vaccine — which is the first to use the same technology as traditional flu jabs — got the green light from an independent FDA panel this week.

Moderna revealed Tuesday that its Omicron-specific booster vaccine sent antibody levels against the variant spiraling eight-fold, as it seeks approval for the jab in the U.S. — which would be the first not to be based on the original Wuhan virus. Clinical trials are yet to show whether the higher antibody levels make it more effective against infections with Omicron than other vaccines.

Statistics from states, counties and local health officials showed the seven-day average for daily infections fell for the second day in a row yesterday. It is now at 105,000 every 24 hours, compared to 120,000 at the peak of this wave

Statistics from states, counties and local health officials showed the seven-day average for daily infections fell for the second day in a row yesterday. It is now at 105,000 every 24 hours, compared to 120,000 at the peak of this wave

The above graph shows the test positivity rate (yellow line) and the seven-day average for swabs carried out every 24 hours (red line). It reveals that the rate is now pointing downwards, in another sign the wave has peaked

The above graph shows the test positivity rate (yellow line) and the seven-day average for swabs carried out every 24 hours (red line). It reveals that the rate is now pointing downwards, in another sign the wave has peaked

Dr Jessica Justman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, and Dr Tom Inglesby, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, have both said that cases appear to be plateauing. But they warn this drop could be reversed by the rise of new Omicron sub-variants — scientifically named BA.4 and BA.5 — which are spreading in the United States

There are concerns more Omicron sub-variants scientifically named BA.4 and BA.5 (green on the graph) could trigger another surge in cases as they spread in the United States. There is no evidence to suggest they are more likely to cause severe disease or death than previous strains

The above map shows the spread of Covid variants across different regions of the country. It reveals that BA.4 and BA.5 (in green) have already spread to every region of the country

Daily Covid deaths are trending downwards, with the seven-day average now at 324 every 24 hours, down 46 percent on the same time last week

Test positivity rate figures showed that on June 5, the latest date available, it hit a level of 13.5 percent — the lowest figure since May 31 and down on the peak of 13.75 percent at the start of the month.

The downturn in the percentage shows fewer Covid swabs are picking up the virus, suggesting that the virus’ prevalence across the country is now dropping.

The number of Covid swabs carried out every day has also dropped by about a third in a week to 460,000 a day, down from 620,000 previously. It is the lowest number of swabs to be carried out a day since testing was ramped up at the start of the pandemic.

Novavax Covid vaccine approval could be delayed due to changes in manufacturing

The roll out of Novavax’s Covid vaccine could be delayed because of changes to its manufacturing process, health officials said yesterday.

This week a panel of independent experts at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the green-light for the two-dose shot to be used among over-18s. It has now been sent to top FDA officials for sign-off.

But last night a spokesman warned this could be delayed after Novavax revealed to the agency it had ‘upgraded’ how the jab was made.

In a statement, they said: ‘FDA will carefully review this and any additional information submitted by the firm as part of its ongoing assessment and prior to authorizing the vaccine for emergency use.’

Novavax said it told the agency about the changes on June 3, days before the panel of experts met.

It has not revealed what the alterations are, but it is not likely they have impacted the jab’s safety profile or  effectiveness against the virus.

The above map shows the spread of Covid variants across different regions of the country. It reveals that BA.4 and BA.5 (in green) have already spread to every region of the country

The Novavax vaccine is set to become the fourth to be approved for use in the United States.

It will also be the first that is ‘protein-based’, meaning it uses the spike proteins from the virus to trigger an immune reaction. The other jabs deploy either DNA or mRNA to get the body to make these.

Experts hope the jab will help convince some of the last 32million Americans to get jabbed.

Breaking down the U.S. into states showed a total of 19 are now seeing their infections fall compared to the same time two weeks ago. Only two — Oklahoma and Wyoming — are still seeing their cases double.

This is a marked change from two weeks ago when only eight states were recording dropping infections and seven were seeing them double every 14 days. One state — Montana — was seeing them more than triple.

Asked by DailyMail.com whether the latest wave had peaked during a briefing, Inglesby said: ‘I think we are in what appears to be a plateau.

‘[But] not all plateaus stay plateaus. We have experienced in the last couple of years times when numbers appeared to level off and then for one reason or another started to level up again.

He added: ‘It is not possible to say this surge has peaked for sure, but in the North East and the Mid-West cases are beginning to come down.

‘But in the South and in the West cases are still continuing to go up, hospitalizations are still continuing to go up so, as in the past, it looks different depending on where you are in the country — but we are definitely still in the middle of a surge.’

Asked whether the Covid pandemic had ended, he said: ‘We are in a better place than we were a year ago, certainly better than we were during Omicron, but there are uncertainties about the future.

‘There is an expectation that in the fall and the winter we will possibly see new surges that are possibly more serious than the ones we are now, so it’s too soon to say we are rounding the corner with Covid.’

Official data is not available for the test positivity rate for each of the ten health regions.

But looking at the state’s at the center of each showed it was falling in five — those centered on California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York — and plateauing in two — Texas and Illinois. The others — on Missouri and Colorado — are still seeing the rate rise.

In the lead-up to Memorial Day several experts called on Americans to take extra precautions — such as wearing face masks — during the three-day celebrations to protect themselves against the virus.

Dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, was one of those to suggest the weekend parties could trigger a Covid spike. He told NBC: ‘What I’m concerned about is after this weekend, there is a lot more cases.’

Dr Peter Hotez, a virologist at Baylor College in Texas, also warned the celebrations would spark an uptick telling the Washington Post: ‘Over the Memorial Day holidays, if you are in settings where you are indoors with large numbers of people without masks… there is a good likelihood you will suffer a breakthrough infection.’

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr Rochelle Walensky warned ahead of the weekend that un-vaccinated Americans — or 32 million people — should avoid the celebrations.

She said during a White House press conference: ‘If you are vaccinated, you are protected, and you can enjoy your Memorial Day. [But] if you are not vaccinated, our guidance has not changed for you, you remain at risk of infection. You still need to mask and take other precautions.’

Several experts warned last year that Memorial Day would trigger a spike in infections, but this did not materialize across the country. At the time infections were less than a quarter of the levels they are today, and in some areas parades were more muted due to the concerns.

Across the states a total of 19 are now seeing their infections start to fall (blue areas) compared to the same time two weeks ago. Only two are still seeing cases double Breaking down the U.S. into states showed a total of 19 are now seeing their infections fall compared to the same time two weeks ago. Only two — Oklahoma and Wyoming — are still seeing their cases double.

The above graph shows the test positivity rate (yellow line) and the number of daily tests (red line) in California, which is at the center of one of ten health regions in the United States. It reveals that the positivity rate is falling

The above graph shows the test positivity rate (yellow) and seven-day average for daily tests (red) in Massachusetts, in one of the health regions in the United States. It reveals a drop in the positivity rate

The above graph shows the test positivity rate (yellow line) and seven-day average for swabs (red line) in Pennsylvania, at the center of one of ten health regions. It shows this is falling

The above graph shows the test positivity rate (yellow line) and seven-day average for daily tests (red line) in Texas, at the center of one of ten health regions. It shows the positivity rate is plateauing

The above graph shows the positivity rate (yellow) and seven-day average for number of daily tests (red line) in Missouri, at the center of one of ten health regions. It shows the positivity rate is still rising

It comes amid fears the Novavax shot’s approval from the FDA — which it was hoped would come as soon as this week — could be delayed over changes to how the jab is made.

This week a panel of independent experts at the agency gave the green-light for the two-dose shot to be used among over-18s, with it then sent for sign-off from health officials there.

But last night a spokesman warned they were slamming the brakes onto this process after Novavax told them on June 3 — days before the panel meeting — that it had ‘upgraded’ the manufacturing process.

In a statement, they said: ‘FDA will carefully review this and any additional information submitted by the firm as part of its ongoing assessment and prior to authorizing the vaccine for emergency use.’

Novavax has not revealed what the alterations are, but it is not likely that they have impacted the jab’s safety profile or effectiveness against the virus.

The Novavax vaccine is set to become the fourth to be approved for use in the United States. It will also be the first that is ‘protein-based’, meaning it uses the spike proteins from the virus to trigger an immune reaction. The other jabs deploy either DNA or mRNA to get the body to make these.

Experts hope the jab will help convince some of the last 32 million Americans to get their first course of vaccines. It could also be available for future inoculation programs, as more people come of age to get their shots.

Clinical trials show the jab is safe and 90 percent effective against the original Wuhan virus. It has not been tested against other variants.

Moderna’s long-awaited Omicron-tailored COVID-19 vaccine booster showed success in clinical trials, it was revealed Tuesday, boosting antibodies capable of fighting the variant eight-fold.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm’s preliminary study results show people given the combination shot experienced a significant increase in protection against the virus, and it hopes it will be available as early as this fall.

The new booster shot also showed effectiveness against previous strains of the virus.

Moderna began to work on the vaccine late last year, when it became clear that the highly-infectious variant storming the world at the time was resistant to the existing crop of shots.

While the shots are too late to deal with Omicron’s first major surge last winter, officials expect this booster to play a role going forward, with another spate of cases expected as early as this fall.

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