Editor’s Note from John Bailey, The White Plains CitizeNetReporter: Good morning! Today introduces a new timely addition to White Plains CitizeNetReporter. Dr. Caitlin Rivers of Johns Hopkins University, who publishes Force of Infection, is introducing a new regional edition of her newsletter which zeros in on the numbers up close and personal in the northeast. WPCNR is a paid subscriber of this new source of clarity on covid as the New York metropolitan area is matching last September covid cases and enters the fall season when last year new infections lead to thousands of infections last January. This Week in Outbreaks is published for the first time today and is reprinted with permission.
Outbreak Outlook – Northeast – October 2
Welcome to the Northeast edition of Outbreak Outlook, formerly called This Week in Outbreaks! This content is only available to paid subscribers. As I am launching the regional editions, your feedback and support is invaluable. Thanks for reading! -Caitlin
Influenza-like illness (ILI) has increased for several weeks now in the Northeast. Around 2.3% of visits to the doctor were for ILI symptoms, which include fever and cough or sore throat. This is a significant increase over last week’s 1.8%. Current levels are similar to what the Northeast region saw at this time last year.
While most states in the region fall in the “minimal” or “low” ILI activity categories, New York City stands out, currently categorized as “high.”
Since it’s still the off-season, I was not able to find additional details about what is going on in NYC. More detailed information on influenza-like illness will become available later this month, when states begin to turn on their ILI surveillance systems and pay closer attention to what is going around.
At the national level, the littlest kiddos are still the most affected by ILI. Nearly 7% of visits to the doctor’s office were for ILI symptoms among kids ages 0-4, up from a recent low of 4%. Older kids, ages 5-24, are faring better at 3.2%. All adult age groups report rates below 2%.
Covid-19 activity has not yet peaked in the Northeast, but the number of new hospitalizations has begun to level off. Wastewater concentration has also plateaued, according to data from Biobot. Taken together, I think the summer Covid-19 wave is currently at peak in the Northeast and should begin dropping soon. The other three regions have already started seeing a decline. It’s reassuring that hospitalizations in the Northeast are still significantly lower than last summer’s uptick.
Don’t forget that the new Covid-19 vaccine is now widely available, and you can get four free at-home tests from covid.gov/tests. I ordered my tests last week, and they haven’t arrived yet; delivery may be delayed.
In Other News
- A Covid-19 outbreak at a hospital in Plattsburgh, New York, near the Vermont border, has led to the reinstatement of a mask mandate. The hospital reported 50 Covid-19 infections among its staff and 20 patient admissions due to the virus this week.
- Officials have now mandated that all patients and visitors wear surgical masks. The hospital is part of the University of Vermont’s health network, but no other hospitals in this network have reintroduced mask mandates. At least five hospitals in New Jersey have also reinstituted mask mandates.
RSV activity is low in the Northeastern region. As a reminder, new shots are available for infants, older adults, and now pregnant women.
All the other respiratory virus that I keep an eye on — seasonal coronavirus, human metapneumovirus, parainfluenza virus, and adenovirus —look good for the Northeast.
Norovirus activity increased for several weeks during the summer but is now on the decline in the Northeast. PCR test positivity was 5.8% at last report, a decrease from the recent peak of 9%. Despite the decline, these figures still highlight a moderate level of ILI activity. Norovirus rates are usually lowest in summer, then rise through autumn and winter before peaking in springtime.
The following foods were sold and are now being recalled because they are contaminated. Please check your cupboards and throw out any of these items:
New this week:
- Not Fried Chicken sold by Life Raft Treats (more info)
- Hillshire Brands smoked sausage (more info)
- Banquet Chicken Strips Meal (more info)
- Frozen corn and mixed vegetables from Food Lion and Kroger (more info)
- Dehumidifiers, dozens of models sold by major retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart. The recalled units were manufactured between 2011 and 2014 (more info — check this list carefully, it’s extensive)
- If you have food allergies, you may wish to review these FDA safety alerts and USDA alerts for foods with undeclared allergens.