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Coronavirus Update: Boston health officials worried about levels of COVID in wastewater, and cases are falling again in New York and New Jersey

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Boston health officials are concerned about elevated levels of the coronavirus in the city’s wastewater, after the concentration climbed 3.1% over the past week and by nearly 100% in the past two weeks, the Associated Press reported. 

That’s according to new data from this week from the Boston Public Health Commission. New COVID-19 cases in Boston have decreased slightly over the past week, though the data does not include positive results from at-home tests, the commission said. Boston hospitals had 170 new hospital admissions related to COVID-19 this week.

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the public health commissioner, said the elevated concentration in the wastewater is “very concerning” because increases in COVID-19 related hospitalizations, combined with flu season, will cause “major strain” on Boston’s healthcare system.

Ojikutu urged residents to keep up-to-date on their booster shots and flu shots, encouraging them to wear face masks in indoor settings and test and isolate if positive for COVID.

U.S. known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since late April, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people overall are testing at home, where the data are not being collected.

The daily average for new cases stood at 40,631 on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 25% from two weeks ago. Cases are rising in Maine, Kentucky, New Hampshire and New Mexico, as well as in Puerto Rico, the tracker shows. They are falling again in several northeastern states that saw spikes in September, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

The daily average for hospitalizations was down 9% at 26,898, while the daily average for deaths is down 12% to 382.

Testing sewage to track viruses has drawn renewed interest after recent outbreaks of diseases like monkeypox and polio. WSJ visited a wastewater facility to find out how the testing works and what it can tell us about public health. Photo illustration: Ryan Trefes

Coronavirus Update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup has been curating and reporting all the latest developments every weekday since the coronavirus pandemic began

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• China is calling for “patience” with its tough COVID policies and warned against any “war-weariness” as local cases soared to their highest since August, days ahead of a pivotal Communist Party congress, Reuters reported. Across China, 1,939 locally transmitted cases were reported on Oct. 9, the highest since Aug. 20, according to Reuters calculations based on official data published on Monday. Thousands of cases caused by the BF.7 have been reported in Inner Mongolia since Oct. 1, turning the region into China’s latest COVID epicenter and causing havoc during last week’s “Golden Week” holiday.

• WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has test positive for COVID in Belmarsh prison, his wife has revealed, Yahoo News U.K. reported. Stella Assange told the PA news agency she is concerned for his health, which has deteriorated since he was sent to Belmarsh prison three years ago after being dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Assange is embroiled in a lengthy legal battle to avoid extradition to the United States.

• Telemedicine became highly popular during the pandemic but is already hitting limits for care delivered across state lines, the AP reported. That complicates follow-up treatments for some cancer patients. It also can affect other types of care, including mental health therapy and routine doctor check-ins. Over the past year, nearly 40 states and Washington, D.C., have ended emergency declarations that made it easier for doctors to use video visits to see patients in another state, according to the Alliance for Connected Care, which advocates for telemedicine use.

• A judge has declined to dismiss the case against a western Michigan restaurant owner who was jailed and fined $15,000 for violating state orders that banned indoor dining during the pandemic, the AP reported. Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria, had asked an Ingham County judge to dismiss the case against her and award her damages.

Here’s what the numbers say:

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 621.5 million on Monday, while the death toll rose above 6.55 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 96.7 million cases and 1,062,578 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 225.9 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots. Just 110.5 million have had a booster, equal to 48.9% of the vaccinated population, and 24.8 million of those who are eligible for a second booster have had one, equal to 37.9% of those who received a first booster.

Some 11.5 million people have had a shot of the new bivalent booster that targets the new omicron subvariants.

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