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While the limited and increasingly tardy COVID-related statistical data made available by provincial governments has been hinting for several weeks at the current surge in COVID infections plateauing, there is little definitive evidence of it having actually happened. As you can see from our most recent composite chart, viral counts in municipal wastewater are at their highest since mid-January and are continuing their steep rise. In each of the past several weeks, the Ontario and federal data on PCR test positivity have, when taken at face value, pointed to the surge in new cases having passed its peak, previous numbers from the preceding three to four weeks have been consistently and significantly raised, likely due to late reporting by many local health authorities.
The most useful and credible guide for managing our personal risks with respect to contracting COVID remains COVID-19 Resources Canada, whose expert statisticians utilize the best available official data to produce a two-week forecast of the number of Canadians who are currently infected and infections. For Ontario, that forecast remains one in every 17 people. As previously noted in this blog, our actual risk of close contact with an infected person in indoor spaces would be somewhat less than that number because many infected people will test themselves once they become sufficiently symptomatic and choose to stay home, but few now wait the recommended 10 days. Even if our actual risk of close contact with an infectious person is half that number (e.g., one in 34), that suggests that choosing to shop in a crowded supermarket without the simple and relatively cheap protection of a well-fitting N95 mask is still downright foolish.
The latest US data on circulating COVID variants (to November 11) tracks the relative “market shares” of the currently most prevalent strains, all of which stem from XBB recombinant Omicron family which first emerged late last year. The EG.5 family of subvariants which appeared in February accounts for 57% of all new infections even though EG.5 itself has been outcompeted by its own progeny strains to the point of virtually disappearing. The currently most prevalent of those strains is HV.5 at 29%. The currently fastest growing variant, however, is JD.1.1 which surged by 3.5 times over the past eight weeks. It is from a different lineage, being one of the XBB.1.5 progeny strains.