Coronavirus Dashboard for Thanksgiving Week 2022

– by a New Deal Democrat

As we begin the week of Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at the current state of COVID.

The alphabet soup of variants (most of which are direct descendants of BA.5), mostly BQ.1&1.1, has largely displaced its parent, which is down to 24% of all occurrences:

New waves usually peak when the displaced variant drops to about 10% of all cases, which should be the case with BA.5 in two or three weeks.

This is notable because, as we’ll see below, Alphabet Soup variants have yet to make a real splash.

In the graphs below, I’ll show the entire 2.5 year history of COVID for each for comparison purposes.

Here is the data for BIObot waste particles (dark line) versus confirmed cases (light line):

Since the end of last year, many people have relied on home tests and not bothered with confirmation, so the “real” number of cases is roughly equal to the peaks of the first 3 waves of the pandemic. This makes sense, as each new variant is more resistant to the immune system than previous variants.

Regionally, we see the likely start of a winter wave in the West, and also perhaps in the Midwest (but not at all in the Northeast!):

However, hospitalizations did not increase at all:

And deaths (thick line), compared to cases (thin line), are near all-time lows:

This has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Eric Topol, in his subpackagecalls the BQ.1.x variants the first displacement variants that do not cause a new wave, stating that:

“New York State, which has the highest level of BQ.1.1 in the US, continues to show no signs of increasing hospital admissions. If anything, that percentage is going down.

He concludes:

“It would be tempting to interpret the lack of effect of BQ.1.1 in terms of its immune evasion properties as we are out of the woods.” Immunity at the population level is built up in 3 years, with all infections and vaccinations. Additionally, our T-cell immunity from these exposures, which is not assessed by these neutralizing antibody assays, helps us defend against variants. The optimistic view is that there is little more that the Omicron family can throw at us that will be much worse than what we have already seen. That we are done, we are becoming endemic, that the acute phase of the pandemic with large waves is over.

“Not so fast. As Daniele Focosi reminded us this week, the mutation rate of SARS-CoV-2 has increased by 30% in the last year. There may still be room for Omicron, and especially the XBB recombinants, to pose a significant threat . Moreover, there is the grim prospect of a whole new family of variants (eg, Sigma) emerging that are different from the cascade of mutations we’ve seen from Omicron for over a year.”

For now, I’ll stick with the more optimistic scenario. As for XBB, this was the cause of a wave in Singapore that quickly came and went throughout the month of October:

And no new line has been able to displace the Omicron in the last full year.

In the meantime, I’ll still be masking up in all public indoor spaces, not just for COVID, but to avoid this year’s bad flu outbreak.

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