Our primary indicators for the state of the pandemic over the past week are somewhat mixed, with some suggesting that the seasonal COVID resurgence since mid-August is now peaking whereas others show the steep rise in new infections continuing. That in part is as a result of provincial governments cutting back on the timeliness and extent of politically unwelcome statistical reporting. 

PCR testing of municipal wastewater is usually a leading indicator of infection rates. As you can see in our composite chart, COVID viral counts are now at their highest so far this year and continuing their steep climb. Positivity rates for PCR tests among the minority of Ontarians who still qualify are also very high, but do not appear to be rising as rapidly as in recent weeks. COVID hospitalization rates, on the other hand, do seem to have plateaued. The caveat there is that published hospitalizations and other vital statistics such as death rates are almost always retroactively increased as late-arriving data are incorporated. 

The most useful guide for managing our personal risks with respect to contracting COVID remains COVID-19 Resources Canada, whose latest forecast of the number of Canadians who are currently infected and infections covers the period from November 18 to December 1. For Ontario, that forecast is now one in every 23 people, down moderately from the previous one in 17. 

The latest Canadian data on circulating COVID variants (to November 4) tracks the relative “market shares” of the dozen 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 is now dominant in Canada, accounting for 68% of new infections. It has already differentiated into some 50 identified strains, some of which are outcompeting the original EG.5 by virtue of being better able to bypass waning Canadian immunity from past vaccinations and COVID bouts. The currently-most-successful EG.5 strain is HV.1, which now accounts for 40% of new Canadian COVID infections.