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The resurgence of new COVID infections continued through the past week. Thus far, the increases appear to be due to the seasonal nature of this virus aided and abetted by complacency among the vast majority of Canadians who can’t be bothered to get their free booster shots and governments with an aversion to providing the meaningful, up-to-date information which would facilitate individuals making rational decisions on when and where to wear masks. Fortunately, an expert group called COVID-19 Resources is providing a credible estimate of the proportion of people who are currently COVID-infectious, precisely what we need to know to inform such decisions, in the form of their Weekly Hazard Index. Their Ontario estimate for past week is that roughly one in every 34 people is infected. The obvious implication is that whenever you walk into an indoor space with that many people, you are at risk of infection if you happen to come into close proximity with the person. Knowing that makes whether or not putting on a quality N95 mask is worth it to you a simple choice. We will now include the latest number in each weekly blog.
Turning to the data, our composite chart of pandemic indicators shows no letup in the increasing COVID viral count in municipal wastewater. Likewise, the increase in positive PCR test results among the minority of Ontarians who remain eligible for such testing. Ontario has failed to provide updated statistics on ICU admissions for more than a month now, but our Canada-wide chart shows that COVID hospitalizations and ICU admissions have both more than doubled over the past two months.
The Canadian chart on circulating COVID variants includes the dozen strains with the currently-highest “market share”. Together, they account for some 75% of new infections from a dizzying array of literally dozens of variants within the utterly-dominant XBB family. Almost half are descendants of EG.5, which was first identified in July but has since split into a dozen or more subvariants. While all XBB strains have the ability to bypass immunity gained from any combination of vaccinations and prior infection, that immunity continues to provides decent protection against severe symptoms and death for those with healthy immune systems. That said, each new COVID strain manages to outcompete its recent predecessors and does so by being better at evading our existing immunity which, by six months after our last booster or infection, has significantly declined. That dynamic increases the likelihood of future waves.