While the US has experienced an increase in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks, gauging the exact extent of the spread remains challenging.
Federal data indicates that these surges have remained below previous peaks, yet anecdotal evidence from individuals suggests a more widespread presence of the virus, CNN reported on Friday, September 1.
Health experts acknowledge that current surveillance systems may not fully capture the extent of the transmission.
Janet Hamilton, executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, asserts, “There is more transmission out there than what the surveillance data indicates… And we should be paying attention to it because we are starting to see an increase.”
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation had previously provided estimates and projections for Covid-19 case rates but suspended this modeling in December 2022 due to changes in data and surveillance methods.
Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington, explained that data became unreliable, making accurate predictions impossible. As the reliance on rapid home tests increased, public interest in testing waned, making it challenging to ascertain current case counts nationwide.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stopped reporting aggregate Covid-19 case counts months ago, citing data limitations.
Hospitalization metrics were considered an alternative measure for transmission, but hospitals’ testing practices have evolved, rendering comparisons difficult.
The introduction of wastewater surveillance aimed to provide a more consistent method of monitoring virus prevalence.
However, interpreting this data proves complex, as concentrations of virus in wastewater do not directly correlate with case counts. Factors such as immunity from vaccination or previous infection, as well as infection severity, impact viral shedding.
Despite uncertainty about exact case numbers, concerning trends emerge. Weekly hospital admissions have nearly doubled in the past month, and test positivity rates have tripled over two months, according to federal surveillance data.
Experts urge precautionary measures, emphasizing the importance of vaccination and mask-wearing as the summer surge extends into the broader respiratory virus season.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Task Force coordinator during the Trump administration, emphasized that Covid-19 should not be equated with the flu and that it necessitates a different approach, including continued vigilance and appropriate precautions.
As the US grapples with the ongoing challenges posed by Covid-19, health experts stress the importance of public health measures to curb transmission and protect individuals during the respiratory virus season.