States in New England, central, northern and Pacific regions are among those that have the highest prevalence of COVID-19 infections in the most recently recorded week, maps produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show.
Southern and East Coast states, from New Mexico to Pennsylvania, had the lowest prevalence of antigen tests returning positive results in the week to September 30, ranging between 5-9.9 percent, while the rest of the country had marginally higher positivity rates of 10-14.9 percent, figures released on Tuesday show.
The CDC reported that nationwide, the prevalence was around 10.9 percent of tests undertaken—a fall from previous consecutive weeks. The data shows an overall small decline in positivity of 1.2 percent from the week prior across the U.S., suggesting the number of infections has largely stabilized—though the agency has warned cases could pick up over the winter.
The results come after a steady rise in cases and hospitalizations over the summer months led some private institutions, hospital operators and colleges in the U.S. to reintroduce requirements for staff or visitors to wear masks while at their sites to limit the spread of the new variants—EG.5 and BA.2.86.
As of September 15, the CDC said that the latter variant “does not appear to be rapidly increasing or driving increases in infections or hospitalizations” in the U.S., and that existing antibodies were giving individuals immunity against the new strain. Many of the institutions have since relaxed their mask mandates, though some hospitals in New Jersey reintroduced them in response to infection rates.
A CDC spokesperson previously told Newsweek that its genomic surveillance indicated that the majority of infections were being caused “by strains closely related to the Omicron strains” that have been circulating since early 2022.
The smallest proportions of test positivity came in East Coast states, including the Virginias, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia—where prevalence was 6.9 percent. The week prior, test positivity in the states had been around 8 percent.
By contrast, New York and New Jersey, just across the Delaware River, had the highest state totals of 13.9 percent for the latest recorded week. Previously, both states had rates of 15.6 percent.
Newsweek approached the departments of health for New York and New Jersey via email for comment on Thursday.
The CDC cautioned that the data did not include tests taken at home, and said the results may be subject to change due to delays in testing centers reporting back.
It also noted that “the data represent laboratory tests performed, not individual people,” as one person may be administered multiple tests in a week, but said that the percentage of positive tests “is one of the metrics used to monitor COVID-19 transmission over time and by area.”
Following a patchwork of hospitalization rates in previous weeks, hospital admissions with the virus appear to have largely stabilized as well, with all states seeing either declines or numerically small rises of a few hundred patients.
Nationally, in the week to September 30, there were 18,139 total hospitalizations with COVID, a decline of six percent on the week prior, continuing a four-week consecutive downward trend from a peak earlier in the month.
“While rates now seem to be plateauing, we are entering October, which is the typical start of the respiratory virus season,” a CDC spokesperson previously said. “Even if hospitalization rates level off for a few weeks, they could increase in the coming weeks, and prevention is the best approach.”
Update 10/03/23, 4:00 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include further details.