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The seasonal resurgence of new COVID infections continued unabated over the past week, as evidenced by all of our statistical indicators. As usual, PCR test results from municipal wastewater was the leading indicator, with the graph bottoming out in early July and since having risen at an accelerating rate with Ontario viral counts now 5.7 times greater than the low point. Unsurprisingly, PCR positivity rates among the minority of Ontarians who still qualify began to rise shortly thereafter and have since nearly tripled. Canada-wide hospitalizations and ICU admissions (since Ontario reporting continued to lag) began rising in early August and have since doubled. As for the ultimate but most lagging indicator, Canadian death rates, those have also tripled since the July/August timeframe.
The biweekly US CDC report on COVID variants shows viral mutation and differentiation to be continuing at an unprecedented pace. Essentially all new infections are XBB derivatives. The currently most common, EG.5 (itself an XBB.1.9.2 derivative) has a 29% “market share”, which is still far from the single-strain dominance which previously characterized this pandemic. EG.5 has itself already spawned a half-dozen subvariants, including HV.1, which has more than quadrupled over the past eight weeks.
While, thus far, none of this dizzying array of new subvariants have demonstrated more severe symptoms than previous Omicron strains, the sheer number of people experiencing their second or third COVID infection translates into cumulative health damage, including higher risk of Long COVID. It is astonishing how many of us are in denial and either can’t be bothered to take such simple health-protecting measures such as consistently masking in crowded public spaces or find doing so too embarrassing.