'Escape variants' account for 16% of US COVID-19 cases: 10 updates

Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 — dubbed 'escape variants' for their immune evasiveness — are gaining prevalence and now account for more than 16 percent of all COVID-19 cases confirmed in the U.S., according to the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker weekly review published Oct. 21.

Ten findings:


1. Based on projections for the week ending Oct. 22, the CDC estimates that BQ.1 accounts for 9.4 percent of cases, while BA.1.1 accounts for 7.2 percent.

2. BA. 5 remains the nation's dominant strain, accounting for 62.2 percent of infections. BF.7, another omicron subvariant experts are closely monitoring, makes up 6.7 percent of cases. Other omicron subvariants make up the rest. 


3. As of Oct. 19, the nation's seven-day case average was 39,803, a 30.9 percent decrease from the previous week's average. This marks the 13th week of decline and the lowest daily case rate seen since late April, CDC data shows.

Community levels 

4. As of Oct. 20, 1.4 percent of counties, districts or territories had high COVID-19 community levels, 17.6 percent had medium community levels and 80.9 percent had low community levels. 


5. The seven-day hospitalization average for Oct. 12-18 was 3,156, a 4.4 percent decrease from the previous week's average. This marks the lowest daily admission rate seen since late May, CDC data shows.


6. The current seven-day death average is 388, down 13 percent from the previous week's average. Some historical deaths have been excluded from these counts, the CDC said. 


7. As of Oct. 12, about 265.6 million people — 80 percent of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 226.2 million people, or 68.2 percent of the population, have received both doses. 

8. About 111.4 million people have received a booster dose, and more than 19.3 million people have received an updated omicron booster. However, 49.5 percent of people eligible for a booster dose have not yet gotten one, the CDC said.

Wastewater surveillance 

9. About 34 percent of the U.S. is reporting moderate to high virus levels in wastewater. Of these surveillance sites, 9 percent are seeing some of the highest levels since Dec. 1, 2021. 

10. About 51 percent of sites are reporting an increase in virus levels, and 42 percent of sites are seeing a decrease.


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