A cluster of high COVID-19 test positivity rates in Texas and neighboring states has weakened but spread to parts of the Midwest, according to a map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mapping data updated Monday by the CDC reveals that the percentage of positive COVID tests decreased slightly nationwide for the week ending September 9, from 14.4% to 14.3%. The data is based on results from 50,579 nucleic acid amplification tests, which are different from typical antigen tests sold for at-home testing.
Positivity rates were significantly higher than average in two out of ten regions used by the CDC to group states. In region six, including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma, the positivity rate was 17.3%. In the seventh region, covering Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, 16.4% of tests came back positive.
Except for New Mexico, all of the hot spots were in states that are Republican strongholds. Republican governors in some states, including Texas and Oklahoma, have banned mask mandates, while Republican politicians have generally been somewhat hesitant to recommend masks, vaccines and other measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
On the other end of the spectrum, test positivity rates reached a low of 10.4% in the CDC’s third region, which includes Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The second lowest positivity rate, 12.4 percent, was seen in the first region, made up of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Although Region Six continues to have the highest positivity rate, it saw significantly fewer positive tests compared to the previous week, where 20.3% of tests returned positive results.
Updated CDC data also shows a small but significant increase in COVID-related hospitalizations nationwide. There were a total of 20,538 new hospitalizations for the week ending September 9, compared to 19,068 the previous week.
News week contacted the CDC for comment via email Monday evening.
Distribution of COVID vaccine boosters began late last week, and vaccines are now available in many parts of the country. The CDC last week recommended the new boosters for anyone over 6 months old.
It is unclear whether the updated booster shots, which are expected to be effective despite being based on a strain of the virus that is no longer prevalent, will impact positivity rates as the deadline approaches. autumn.
Although some have expressed reservations about the new booster shots, COVID vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly protective against severe illness and death. They are less effective at preventing infections, while still providing some degree of protection.
The likelihood that the boosters will be widely adopted is low, however, because a large majority of Americans did not take the updated booster shots released last year.
Although the COVID public health emergency officially ended in the United States and around the world in May, the virus remains a significant and continuing cause of illness and death, and the global pandemic is still active.