Illinois and Vermont metros overtake New York cities as top COVID hotspots

FILE – Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk along Broadway in the SoHo district of New York, Friday, March 4, 2022. COVID-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic, offering a much needed break to health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Coronavirus cases continue to steadily rise in the U.S. with the spread of the BA.2 variant, and now two northern U.S. metros have become the top areas for high COVID-19 case rates.

Last week, four out of the top five metro areas for new COVID-19 cases were in New York state, with Syracuse and Ithaca topping the list. However, the most recent data indicates that Champaign, Ill., and Burlington, Vt., now occupy these spots, though the majority of the top regions are still found in New York.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the BA.2 variant is currently responsible for 3 out 4 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., while the subvariant BA.2.12.1 accounts for about a fifth of cases.

In the U.S., the seven-day moving average for new cases has risen by roughly 5,000 in the past week, still remaining far below the case rates that were seen in the winter.

Beginning this week, the COVID Act Now nonprofit, which monitors coronavirus metrics across the country, switched from reporting daily new case rates to reporting rates from the past seven days.

The rates listed on the site’s landing page will indicate the average number of new cases per 100,000 people over the past week. While this list looks at U.S. metro areas among states, Arecibo, Puerto Rico, currently ranks second across all U.S. territories in terms of case rates.

Here are the top five U.S. metro areas for new COVID-19 cases.

Champaign, Ill.

Seven-day average for new cases per 100,000 people: 62.6

Champaign’s average case rate last week was about 42 cases per 100,000 people, but that number has since risen by about 20 cases. The CDC recently raised Champaign County’s community risk level from low to medium in response to the rise in cases.

The percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in the Champaign area is currently at 1 percent and the number of weekly admissions due to the coronavirus sits at 5.1 per 100,000.

Burlington, Vt.

Seven-day average for new cases per 100,000: 56.8

Along with having one of the highest case rates in the country right now, the Burlington metropolitan area also currently has one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization admission rates at 9.7 per 100,000 people. According to the most recent data, 2 percent of hospital beds in the area are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Though these metrics place Burlington among the top areas in the U.S. in terms of COVID-19 admissions, this rate is still considered to be low and as such Burlington’s risk level remains at medium. The state of Vermont is currently the top state for new COVID-19 cases with a rate of about 42 per 100,000.

Syracuse, N.Y.

Seven-day average for new cases per 100,000: 56.7

Like Burlington, Syracuse is one of the top U.S. metro areas in terms of COVID-19 hospital admission rates, ranking second overall, just behind Watertown, N.Y. Syracuse currently has a weekly COVID-19 admission rate of 14 per 100,000 and 5 percent of hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Last week, Syracuse was the top U.S. metro area when it came to the rate of new cases. Due to the higher rate of cases coupled with the higher rate of hospital admissions, the city is considered to be at a high risk level.

Utica, N.Y.

Seven-day average for new cases per 100,000: 56.5

Hospitalization rates in the Utica area have continued to remain low over the past week, sitting at 8.3 admissions per 100,000. The infection rate also appears to have dropped somewhat since last week, falling from 1.32 to roughly 1.21, according to COVID Act Now’s data.

While having the lowest vaccination rate of the metro areas on this list, Utica is currently considered to have a medium risk level.

Ithaca, N.Y.

Seven-day average for new cases per 100,000: 54.1

While still a low percentage at 6 percent, Ithaca currently has the highest percent of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients in the country. At less than 10 percent, this percentage is considered to be low.

The city also has the lowest rate of COVID-19 hospital admissions among the cities listed, with a rate of 4.7 per 100,000.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 covid-19 case rates COVID-19 cases

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