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Our federal and provincial government statistical data has finally caught up from the holiday public service laying-down-of-tools which has, as expected, resulted in some of the previously-reported numbers having been revised upwards. Nevertheless, the data show that the seasonal COVID surge in new infections has plateaued, albeit at a very high level.
That picture is reflected in this week’s composite chart. COVID viral counts as tabulated in municipal wastewater COVID PCR test results remain at their highest level in more than a year, but have at least stopped rising. PCR positivity rates among the minority of Ontarians still eligible for testing, hospitalizations and ICU bed occupancy across Canada have likewise plateaued. The good news, therefore, is that the current pandemic resurgence has stopped worsening. The bad news lies in the caveat “at very high levels”. COVID-19 Resources Canada’s estimate of current infection rates remains at one in 13 Ontarians. Now is not the time to let down one’s guard.
Most of those new infections are by this point in the pandemic are in people experiencing their second or third COVID bouts. The very high rate is most likely due to a combination of waning immunity (which is significantly reduced 6 months after one’s most recent infection or booster shot) and the rapid rise to dominance of the non-XBB JN.1 variant which, considering how fast it has spread compared to its competitors, is obviously the most successful to date in evading our immunity to infection. The Public Health Canada data illustrated in the above bar chart shows that JN.1 and, to a much lesser extent, its BA.2.86 parent strain and its newer JN.2 successor already accounted for roughly 70% of all new Canadian infections on December 31. That dominance is almost certainly even greater today.