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COVID-19 testing in a healthcare setting can help slow the spread of the disease. Getty Images
  • COVID-19 cases are on the decline in the Northeast and Great Lakes region.
  • After more than 2 years of the pandemic, many people are reevaluating what level of risk they consider acceptable.
  • There are still vulnerable populations who rely on those around them to avoid serious illness.

The recent wave of new COVID-19 cases appears to be on the decline in the Northeast and in the Great Lakes region.

Although cases are going up in other parts of the United States, it’s uncertain if this increase will rise to anywhere near the levels or duration seen during the Omicron spike earlier this year or the Delta surge last fall.

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the U.S. daily average of new cases to be sitting at 103,000. That’s far below the 800,000 witnessed in January during Omicron, although significantly above the 20,000 recorded in June 2021 before the Delta variant emerged.

A look at the states where cases have decreased or declined in the past week shows only Vermont among the Northeast states and no Great Lake states among those on the rise. In fact, for the week that ended May 29, cases in Connecticut dropped 51 percent from the previous week while New York saw a 40 percent dip, New Hampshire a 34 percent decline, and Rhode Island a 28 percent decrease.

A tweet from Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and now a board member for Pfizer pharmaceuticals, on the trends over the past 14 days shows equally dramatic numbers. Connecticut’s daily case average has dropped by 63 percent while Minnesota’s average has fallen 44 percent and Maine has dropped by 43 percent.

The average daily death toll from COVID-19 remains under 300, compared to 2,600 in January and more than 450 in June 2021. No New England or Great Lakes states were near the top in terms of percentage increase during the week that ended May 29.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at about 12,000, about the same number as a year ago and far less than the 140,000 recorded in January.

Based on the numbers from the United Kingdom and in New England, it appears the wave of COVID-19 takes between 6 and 7 weeks to reach its peak once it’s begun.

Last month, the federal government announced a third round of free at-home COVID-19 tests would be made available to order.

There are undoubtedly benefits to having free at-home tests.

“At-home tests can be an important tool for people to find out if they have COVID-19 and modify behavior and seek medical attention accordingly,” Dr. Jimmy Johannes, a pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center California, told Healthline.

“Easy access to home testing can facilitate behaviors that can reduce the risk of transmission. Further, easy access to home testing can help those with COVID-19 infection get early antiviral treatment,” he said.

“But since at-home rapid COVID-19 test results are often not reported to public health systems, I can imagine that they can lead to an undercount of COVID-19 positivity rates,” Johannes added.

The BA.2 Omicron lineage is the predominant variant in the United States today, making up slightly more than half of all cases.

Compared to earlier strains of the novel coronavirus, it appears to be more easily spread but causes less severe illnesses.

Dr. Charles Bailey, the medical director for infection prevention at Providence St. Joseph Hospital and Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, California, told Healthline that the newer variants probably aren’t the only causes of the increase in cases.

“I believe it’s being driven more by social behavior along with the vulnerability derived from waning protection following an infection or prior vaccination,” Bailey said. “If the newest COVID subvariant were the primary driver, I would have expected a sharper upturn in cases.”

Johannes agreed that social behaviors were likely to be a factor in increased infections.

“I think the main drivers for the increase… are people loosening up precautions against COVID-19 as well as more contagious variants in circulation,” he said.

If you’re not yet vaccinated and you’re medically able to do so, experts say getting inoculated would help to prevent the spread of the disease

While many people who get COVID-19 might experience mild symptoms — or even no symptoms at all — it’s important to remember that each infection makes it easier for the disease to spread to vulnerable populations who are at risk for more serious illnesses.

More infections also increase the likelihood of further mutations that could lead to more transmissible or deadly variants.

Ultimately, it’s up to every individual to decide what amount of risk they’re willing to accept in their day-to-day life, and available precautions such as vaccination and mask-wearing are tools to lower this risk.

And if you’re feeling worn down by the pandemic you’re not alone, even if this isn’t one of the numbers that gets talked about as much.

If this latest wave has you feeling depressed or anxious, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional.