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As you can see from this week’s composite chart, COVID viral counts in Ontario’s municipal wastewater continue the steep decline from their massive January 1 peak, which serves as a strong indication of reduced viral counts in Ontarian bodies. However, that improvement has yet to be fully reflected in the other indicators. PCR test positivity rates have indeed dropped since the beginning of January, but more moderately. Canadian COVID hospitalization and ICU bed occupancy rates likewise remain very high and have declined only modestly from their extended peak. With no evidence as yet to indicate that the non-dominant JN.1 family of COVID variants might intrinsically cause more severe illness than XBB, this might be a consequence of ever-fewer people bothering to get COVID boosters despite immunity waning after 6 months.
The more independent COVID-19 Resources Canada Hazard Index estimates that the number of Ontarians currently having active COVID infections and therefore being infectious is now one in 16, down from having been one in 12 for much of the past month.
With respect to the current mix of COVID variants, the new JN.1 (non-XBB) family of Omicron variant is among the most dominant ever. The latest Public Health Canada data (for the week ending February 3) shows it accounting for 93% of all new Canadian infections. It has already differentiated into at least five distinct strains. In decreasing order of prevalence, those are JN.1, JN.1.4, JN.1.1, JN.1.2 and JN.2. Each of those is in turn spawning sub-strains.