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The most recent data reinforces the likelihood that the resurgence of new COVID infections has peaked for the time being, but at a discouragingly high level. Too many of my friends have succumbed to their first COVID bout in the past week, and I’m hearing second hand of others in their second or even third. The most recent estimates by COVID-19 Resources Canada indicate that one in 23 Ontarians is currently infected and therefore infectious, a number which is essentially unchanged from last week. The key indicators which they employ include wastewater virus counts and PCR infection rates (13.8 times higher than at the pandemic’s lowest point, estimated Long COVID cases (4.8 times higher), COVID hospitalizations and ICU occupancy (7.7 times higher) and deaths (5.4 times higher). The Ford government’s political narrative, of course, continues to be that the pandemic is over (nothing to see here, folks; move along).
The Canadian bar chart on circulating COVID variants included in this week’s compose chart graphs the dozen strains with the currently-highest “market share”. The bars don’t add up to 100% because, together, they only account for some 83% of new infections. Since Omicron first appeared in last 2021, it has differentiated into nearly two thousand identified strains, an astonishing mutation rate which continues to accelerate. The most recent family of such subvariant strains is the EG.5 lineage, which was spawned by its XBB.1.9.2 predecessor in late February and currently accounts for 54% of new Canadian cases. In those eight months, it has already split into 17 different identified strains, the most prevalent of which is now HV.1, which accounts for more than one in five recent Canadian infections. Almost by definition, it would be the most transmissible COVID variant yet, more adept than its competitors at evading existing immunity from current vaccines and/or previous bouts of COVID.