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CDC: Recent dips in COVID-19 data should be ‘interpreted with caution’

Coronavirus tests
Posted at 4:50 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 16:50:53-05

The national rates of hospitalizations, positive coronavirus tests and deaths have appeared to plateau or drop in the first few weeks of 2021. The CDC urges caution in reading too much into the declines and suggests those numbers could change.

“Recent declines in all indicators should be interpreted with caution as reporting delays increased due to the holidays and a rise in the number of COVID-19 illnesses. Downward trends may change as more data are received,” the CDC states in their weekly COVIDView summary report.

The CDC’s report looks at the week ending January 16, the most recent week of nationwide data they have analyzed. They say all surveillance indicators they are tracking “remain elevated but decreased during the week."

Indicators include hospitalizations and deaths caused by the coronavirus, and the positivity rate of those tested for the virus. The positivity rate of COVID-19 tests for mid-January was at 11.9%, compared to 14.7% in the first week of the year.

“The holidays … and increases in the number of COVID-19 illnesses have affected data reporting and health care seeking behavior in multiple ways; therefore, data from recent weeks should be interpreted with caution because they may change more than usual as additional data for those weeks are received,” the report states.

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a COVID-19 briefing Thursday at the White House echoed the same sentiments.

“There are always lags (in the data) so be aware of that. That when you have cases and then a couple weeks later you see it represented in hospitalizations, intensive care and then a couple weeks later in deaths,” Fauci said.

The CDC’s reporting relies on local and regional reporting from hospital systems and states.

Hospital systems across the country are reporting few or no ICU beds available after surges in coronavirus patients in late November and December, in addition to resource shortages and overworked hospital and clinic staff.

Global Coronavirus Tracker:

See map here
Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.