Globally, over 4,500 deaths were reported in the 28 days between June 5 and July 2. The WHO African region has again reported an increase in deaths, while the other five world regions have continued to report decreases. Once again, there have been no reports of major COVID upsurges anywhere in the world. 

The most interesting component of this week’s composite chart is again the latest US data on relative variant incidence, which are reported biweekly. Essentially all new US cases were caused by the XBB family of recombinant subvariants. This makes the equivalent weekly Canadian report puzzling in that the weekly Public Health Agency of Canada {PHAC) report shows “Other BA.5” at 35%. Since there can’t be that extreme a difference between our two countries, PHAC must be categorizing one or more of the proliferation of XBB subvariants under BA.5. Regardless, the current absence of any one variant being anywhere close to dominance is unprecedented thus far in this pandemic. XBB.1.16, which enjoys the largest “market share” while accounting for fewer than 16% of new US cases, is in decline. The next largest, XBB.1.9.1 is at 13% but growing slowly. EG.5, the fastest-rising subvariant two weeks ago, has reached 11%, but its growth rate has slowed. The fastest-growing by far, XBB.1.16.6, is still only at 9% but has surged nearly 8-fold over the past 8 weeks. It is arguably the current top contender for future dominance. The good news for we humans is that the current situation of no one variant having a huge transmissibility advantage has likely contributed to the summer lull in new cases despite waning “herd immunity” due to most people not bothering to get booster shots. That is unlikely to last for very much longer. 

The summer decline in Ontario’s municipal wastewater viral counts appears to have bottomed out at a comparatively low level. This having been the off week in which Public Health Ontario does not report PCR test positivity, we’ll have to wait another week to see whether or not last week’s slight rise in that indicator was a statistical blip. The best news is that COVID hospitalizations and deaths have remained very low.