Welcome to

Ron’s COVID-19 Page

What’s new on this site

The Kingston and global charts are fully up to date as of January 24. The next full update will be posted on the morning of Saturday January 28.

For a Canadian summary of what’s currently known about XBB.1.5 and what to do about it, follow the link to an 18-minute Globe and Mail podcast on this subvariant at the top of our Resources page.

Our Variants and Subvariants page provides a detailed chart and explanation to help you better understand the confusing, disturbing and seemingly never-ending influx of new, ever-more-transmissible variants, as well as their implications. It has been updated to include XBB.1.5.

Who We Are

This site shares the results of an ongoing personal project to better understand why the pandemic has developed in such a damaging way in Canada, what other jurisdictions have done to better protect their citizens from those impacts and what we can collectively do to reduce the carnage of the unnecessary third wave which is now upon us.  It neither represents nor receives funding from any other person or organization.  The sole purpose is to provide the latest and most meaningful data and insights related to the pandemic and its impact on our society in a readily accessible format.  You will find many meaningful charts and analyses which provide context for the statistics summarized in the above table by clicking on the Global, Canada, Ontario and Kingston menus. For more details, see the About page. 

Pandemic Update

Week of January 15 – 21

The week just past most likely represented something of a lull following the holiday peak in new, mostly BA.5 infections. Because so much in our population succumbed to BA.5 in 2022, there is a reasonable level of immunity to that particular subvariant which is probably keeping the effective viral reproduction number down near the non-exponential level of one. Unfortunately, provincial governments rendered that key pandemic indicator impossible to determine a year ago when they chose to severely limit access to PCR testing. 

This lull will probably be cut short within a few weeks as the next XBB.1.5-driven wave roars in because it is so effective at evading prior immunity as to render almost everyone vulnerable to reinfection. As illustrated by the black bar in this week’s composite chart, this subvariant (often referred to in the media as “Kraken”) now accounts for over 52% of new US cases, having outcompeted BA.5 to the point where the latter is down to a mere 2%. More to the point for Ontarians and Québecois, XBB.1.5 now accounts for more than 85% in the neighbouring Northeastern US states where it originated, which implies that it is already here and must be rapidly growing given open borders. 

The most recent Canadian data dates back to the week of January 1, when XBB amounted to 3.2% of new cases. Assuming that its incidence continues to double every one to two weeks, which is typical for a new COVID subvariant with that level of competitive advantage, it will achieve dominance in Canada by early February. Delving more deeply into the Canadian data, the BQ.1.1 subvariant, which is sufficiently more transmissible than BA.5 to have been briefly dominant in the US and reached 41% in Canada by late December, has already started to decline here, likely due to being outcompeted by XBB. 

The other three graphs in our composite chart reflect the holiday infections peak and the modest drop back to wastewater testing, test positivity and, to a lesser extent, hospitalization rates which are still somewhat high compared to the most of the previous six months. Wastewater constitutes the most reliable indicator (at least for urban areas) but is a week less current in Ontario. For a more current snapshot, see our Kingston chart which we update twice each week, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. 

Since the earliest months of this pandemic, Canadians have never been more vulnerable to COVID infection. It’s winter, we spend most of our time indoors, our children are unprotected in school and relatively few of us continue to take elementary precautions such as mask wearing and avoiding eating in restaurant settings. Immunity gained from vaccinations and/or past infections continues to provide reasonable protection against death and the most severe symptoms (though much less so for those in the 70+ age group) but offers limited protection against XBB.1.5 infection (on the order of 30% for the most recent bivalent vaccines). Only 17% of Canadians have had a booster in the past six months, a number that (in Kingston, for example) is actually declining. 

When this next wave hits, we can expect little or no action or even timely warnings or advice from our governments. 

From personal experience last week, if you drop in to your local health unit for a booster, even without an appointment, you’ll probably be out the door again within 15 minutes.