SARS-CoV-2 Update 1/14/23

In 2022, multiple new Omicron variants BA.1, BA.2, BA.4, and BA.5 assaulted the world’s population of humans and other animals. By the time multiple companies made and tested Omicron BA.1 vaccines, BA.1 was no longer the dominant variant; in fact, it was no longer present. On August 31, 2022, the FDA allowed rapid introduction of an Omicron BA.5 bivalent vaccine. However, this has had no effect on new immune evading BQ variants. In December the first highly infectious recombinant variant, XBB, began spreading around the world. An additional variant, XBB.1.5, is now rapidly spreading across the country and the world causing increased numbers of hospitalizations and critically ill patients in the USA. A new variant, CH.1.1 (BA. caused 5.9% of infections in the world from December 25 to January 14, 2023 and, from December 26 to January 1, 19.5% of infections in the United Kingdom. 

On January 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its recommendations on mask wearing to specify that, given the global spread of COVID-19, masks should be worn “irrespective of the local epidemiological situation,” meaning that masks are now recommended for everyone, not just people in areas with high levels of transmission. Here are our 14-day moving average determinations for SARS-CoV-2 for the United States. We use the WORLDOMETERS aggregators data set to make any projections since it includes data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Military, federal prisons and the Navajo Nation.

XBB.1.5 Variant Continues to Dominate

During the week ending in 1/14/22, the CDC estimates that based on genomic surveillance, XBB.1.5 accounted for 43% of infections, followed by BQ.1.1 at 28.8%, BQ.1 at 15.9%, XBB at 3.9%, BA.5 at 2.6%, BN.1 at 2.1%, BF.7 at 1.4%, and BA.2.75 at 1.3%. The remaining variants made up less than 1% each: BA.5.2.6 (0.5%), BA.2 (0.2%), BF.11 (0.2%), BA.4.6 (0.1%), and BA.2.75.2 (0.1%). We are keeping our eye on BA.2.75, as the CDC is likely lumping in its descendant, CH.1, and its subvariants under this label. 


BQ.1.1 has five spike mutations that are different from BA.5. Four of these mutations allow escape from immunity from monoclonal antibodies, any prior infection (including Omicron BA.5), or any vaccine to include the bivalent Omicron BA.5 vaccine. Infections are still occurring in our clinic in patients that received the Omicron BA.5 bivalent vaccine. The XBB recombinant isolate XBB.1.5  has rapidly become the dominant infection in the USA. It took 28 days to become the cause of 40% of infections in the USA. As of 1/14/23, XBB.1.5 now causes over 80% of infections in Regions 1 and 2. 

The “Omicron family feud” is a phrase coined by Dr. Raj Rajnarayanan to describe what’s going on between the Omicron BQ variants, BQ.1, BQ,1.1 (and other BQ variants) and XBB.1.5 (and other XBB variants). In the USA in regions 1 and 2, XBB.1.5 has won the feud. A new variant of BA2.75, CH.1.1, is now 4.9% of SARS-CoV-2 isolates in the world. It has the Delta mutation, P681R, which should raise a red flag. According to Saito et al, the P681R mutation, “facilitates cleavage of the spike protein and enhances viral fusogenicity [the ability of the virus to fuse to human cell membranes]….and pathogenicity [lethality].”  

XBB.1.5 Proportion of Sequenced Isolates in the USA


BQ. 1 and BQ.1.1 Totaled Proportion of Sequenced Isolates in the USA


Percent of isolates identified as XBB.1.5 by Region

Week ending in12345678910

SARS-CoV-2 infections per day in the United States have increased for the second time in 6 weeks. There is still widespread underreporting by states, a failure to capture all positive home tests, and a decreased PCR screening program in most states. Deaths per day in the United States have increased by 147 deaths per day. Many states are not reporting deaths or infections in a timely manner. The number of infections per day is expected to increase in the next four weeks due to a lack of mask use in schools, businesses, and airports; a failure of adequate building ventilation; lack of social distancing; and low rates of bivalent booster uptake. XBB, an Omicron recombinant variant first identified in India, caused a major outbreak in Singapore. XBB is the first recombinant variant combining spike protein sequences from two other Omicron BA.2 variants, that has spread aggressively around the world. New mutations of XBB, specifically XBB.1.5 are rapidly crowding out other variants in the USA. Current vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and prior infections will not protect you from getting an XBB.1.5 infection. A more detailed description of XBB variant mutations and epidemiology can be found on page 17 of the UK Health Security Agency Technical Briefing from November 25

For a more detailed picture of COVID variant evolution in the United States, we recommend checking out the dashboard put together by Raj Rajnarayanan, Assistant Dean of Research and Associate Professor at NYITCOM at Arkansas State University. 

To understand the true impact of these variants, it’s helpful to examine their evolution. Two virologists collaborated on Twitter to create the figure below, which Professor Johnson titled “Convergent Evolution on Steroids.”  It shows the key mutations present in many of the currently-circulating Omicron subvariants and demonstrates that mutation at site 346 is becoming more and more common. 

From Daniele Focosi, M.D., Ph.D. @dfocosi on Twitter, January 9, 2023

Past infections with a BA.1, BA.2 or BA.5 variants will not prevent infections with any of the newer variants. Monoclonal antibodies are no longer effective against newer BQ variants, XBB variants and other spike protein mutated variants. The last remaining monoclonal antibody, bebtelovimab, was removed from use by the FDA on 12/2/22. Paxlovid was only 89% effective in the original clinical trials against SARS-CoV-2. If resistance develops this winter to oral Paxlovid, we will have more Paxlovid failures and increased hospitalizations and deaths.

A Deeper Dive into U.S. COVID Data

On 1/13/23, the United States had 19,397 documented new infections. There were also 193 deaths. Thirty-seven states did not report their infections, and 37 states didn’t report their deaths. In the United States on 1/13/23 the number of hospitalized patients (44,806)  has increased  (+10.98% compared to the previous 14 days) and was 40,374 on December 30. On 1/13/22 there were 5,449 patients who were seriously or critically ill (a 6.1% increase); that number was 5,135 two weeks ago. The number of critically ill patients has increased by 315 in the last 14 days, while at least 7,064 new deaths occurred. The number of critically ill patients has increased for the 11th time in thirty-five 14-day periods. Patients are still dying each day (average 505/day). 

As of 1/13/23, we have had 1,125,020 deaths and 103,482,187 SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States. We have had 971,709 new infections in the last 14 days. We are adding an average of 485,855 new infections every seven days. For the pandemic in the United States we are averaging one death for every 91.98 infections or over 10,872 deaths for each one million infections. As of 1/13/22, thirty-nine states have had greater than 500,000 total infections, and 38 states and Puerto Rico have had greater than 5,000 total deaths. Forty-six states have had greater than 2,000 deaths, and 33 states have greater than 3,000 deaths per million population. Nine states have over 4,000 deaths per million population: Mississippi (4,406), Arizona (4,465), Alabama (4,246), West Virginia (4,340), New Mexico (4,240), Tennessee (4,186), Arkansas (4,225), Michigan (4,105) and New Jersey (4,016). Eighteen states (Alabama, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, New York, Arizona and California) have had greater than 20,000 deaths. Nine states have had greater than 40,000 deaths: Florida (84,170 deaths), Texas (92,600 deaths), New York (75,909 deaths), Pennsylvania (49,263 deaths), Georgia (41,648 deaths), Ohio (41,001 deaths) , Illinois (40,678 deaths), Michigan (41,001), and  California (98,954 deaths, 20th most deaths in the world). 

On 11/20/20, there were 260,331 (cumulative) deaths in the US from SARS-CoV-2. Since 11/20/20 (26 months), there were 857,919 new deaths from SARS-CoV-2. For twenty-two of those months, vaccines have been available to all adults. During these twenty-two months, 552,821 people have died of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Clearly, a vaccine-only approach is not working anywhere, especially not in the United States. In addition to getting more people vaccinated, most of the hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by proper masking (N95 or better), social distancing, and treatment with oral antiviral agents like Paxlovid. We recommend all of these precautions and treatments to every patient in our clinic, and we have only lost one patient to COVID in 2.5 years. 

As of 1/13/23, California was ranked 32nd in the USA in infection percentage at 29.99%. In California, 26.02% of the people were infected in the last 22 months. As of 1/13/23, 31 states have had greater than 30% of their population infected. Fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have greater than 20% of their population infected.                   

FDA-Approved Oral Drug Treatments for SARS-CoV-2

Pfizer has developed PAXLOVID™, an oral reversible inhibitor of C3-like protease of SARS-CoV-2. The drug inhibits this key enzyme that is crucial for virus production. The compound, also called Compound 6 (PF-07321332), is part of the drug combination PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), which successfully completed a Phase 2-3 trial in humans in multiple countries. The preliminary results were announced on 11/5/21 by Pfizer. The results showed that 89% of the hospitalizations and deaths were prevented in the drug treatment arm. The drug was administered twice a day for five days. No deaths occurred in the treatment group, and ten deaths occurred in the placebo group. The study was stopped by an independent data safety monitoring board, and the FDA concurred with this decision. Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization for this drug on 11/15/21. This drug was approved on 12/23/21. PAXLOVID™ one year later is widely available at major pharmaceutical chains and smaller independent drug stores throughout the USA. We have  been able to obtain PAXLOVID™ for any patient desiring treatment. We have only had one  drug failure and death from SARS-CoV-2 during 2022. That death occurred in an octogenarian male in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Watching World Data

Over the next few months, we’ll be paying close attention to correlations between the SARS-CoV-2 data, the number of isolates identified in various countries and states, and the non-pharmaceutical interventions (like mask mandates and lockdowns) put in place by state and national governments. Data on infections, deaths, and percent of population infected was compiled from Worldometers. Data for this table for SARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in Location was compiled from GISAID and the CDC. It’s worth noting that GISAID provided more data than the CDC.

LocationTotal Infections as of 1/13/23New Infections on 1/13/23Total DeathsNew Deaths on 1/13/23% of Pop.InfectedSARS-CoV-2 Isolates Currently Known in LocationNational/ State Mask MandateCurrently in Lockdown
World670,816,950319,9876,728,2701,6078.60%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)A lineage isolateV01.V2 (Tanzania)APTK India VOC 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa 2% of isolates in July 2021)R1 (Japan)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 + BA.3 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)Four new recombinants 12/31 to 3/22)BA.2.12.1 (USA)BA.4 (South Africa)BA.5 (South Africa)BA.2.75 (India 7/22)BA.4.6 (USA 7/22)BF.7BJ.1XBBBQ.1BQ.1.1BS.1BN.1  NoNo
USA103,482,187 (ranked #1)
19,397 (ranked #5)
37 states and D,C. failed to report infections on 12/2/22.
1,125,020 (ranked #1) 193
37 states  and D.C. failed to report deaths on 1/13/23.
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)BV-1 (Texas, USA)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)R1(Japan)         Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + BA.2 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)Recombinant Delta AY.119.2- Omicron BA.1.1 (Tennessee, USA 12/31/21)\BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa 11/21)BA.5 (South Africa 11/21)BA.2.75 (India 7/22)BA.4.6 (USA 7/22)BQ.1BQ.1.1BN.1NoNo
Brazil36,623,217(ranked #5) 20,548 (ranked#4)695,334 (ranked #2)7917.00%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa 11/21)BA.5 (South Africa 11/21)NoNo
India 44,681,884 (ranked #2)
530,726(ranked #3) 3.17%
Unchanged in 4 weeks
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)APTK India VOI 32421Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.4 (South Africa 11/21)BA.5 (South Africa 11/21)BA.2.75 (India)NoNo
United Kingdom
24,243,576 (ranked #9)202,157 (ranked #7) 470 new deaths in 2 weeks35.39%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)C.1.2 (South Africa)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)XD (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantXF (Delta/BA.1) recombinantXE (BA.1/BA.2) recombinantBA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa 11/21)BA.5 (South Africa 11/21)BA.2.75 (India 7/22)NoNo
California, USA11,852,546 (ranked #13 in the world)1,51698,954 (ranked #20 in world)
2529.99%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Zeta/P.2 (Brazil)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Theta/P.3 (Philippines) Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Lambda/C.37 (Peru) Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia) Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)BA.2BA.2.12.1 (United States)BA.4 (South Africa 11/21)BA.5 (South Africa 11/21)BA.2.75 (India 7/22)BQ.1BQ.1.1BN.1NoNo
Mexico7,303,600 (ranked #19) 5,686 (ranked #11)331,452(ranked #5)455.55%NoNo
South Africa4,051,243 (ranked #37; 4,347 new infections in 14 days).183102,568 (ranked #18) 0 new deaths in 14 days)
Unchanged in 4 weeks

Unchanged in 4 weeks
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)       C.1.2 (South Africa, July 2021)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)BA.2BA.4 (South Africa 11/21)BA.5 (South Africa 11/21)NoNo
Canada4,508275 (ranked #34)49,566 (ranked #24 ) 11.74% NoNo
Poland6,732,901 (ranked #21)324118,640 (ranked #15) 87 new deaths in the last 14 days716.88%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 + (South Africa November 2021),Omicron/B.1.1.529 +BA.3 NoNo
Russia21,846,722 (ranked #10)5,978 (ranked #12)394,209(ranked #4)4714.98%NoNo
Peru4,473,821(ranked #35)627 218,490(ranked #6) 1313.28%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Lambda/C.37 (Peru)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Iran7,562,446 (ranked #18)75144,723 (ranked #12) 18.78%
Unchanged in 4 weeks
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Spain13,711,251 (ranked #12)9,871 (ranked #7)117,759 (ranked #16) new deaths in 14 days7629.34%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India)Beta/B.1.351 (SA)Gamma/P.1 (Brazil)Epsilon/B.1.427 + B.1.429 (USA)*Eta/B.1.525 (Nigeria/UK)Iota/B.1.526 (USA-NYC)Kappa/B.1.617.1 (India)Mu/B.1.621 (Colombia)Omicron/B.1.1.529 + BA.1 (South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)NoNo
France39,442,176 (ranked #3)6,238 (ranked #9)163,347 (ranked #10)10160.13% B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)B.1.640.1 (Congo/France)B.1.640.2 (Cameroon/France)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantBQ.1.1NoNo
Germany37,605,135 (ranked #4)10,609 (ranked #6)163,775 (ranked #9)15044.83%
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantBQ.1.1NoNo
South Korea29,737,769 (ranked #7)39,726 (ranked #2)32,867 (ranked #34) 6657.93%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Vietnam11,526,089 (ranked #13)5543,186(ranked #26)11.64%
Unchanged in 4 weeks
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021),No
Netherlands8,576,523 (ranked #17)22,989 (ranked #41)49.83%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo
Denmark3,171,515 (ranked #40)  1907,982 (ranked #76)1154.35%B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)GKA (AY.4/BA.1) recombinantNoNo

Taiwan9,167,795 (ranked #16)21,721 (ranked #3)15,755 (ranked #56)
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)NoNo
Japan31,176,281(ranked #6)144,077 (ranked #1)61,761(ranked #23)
14 days.
B2 lineageAlpha/B.1.1.7 (UK)Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Delta/B.1.617.2 (India) Omicron/B.1.1.529 South Africa November 2021)BA.2*BA.5*NoNo
Argentina10,004,679 (ranked #15)130,249(ranked #14)21.74%NoNo
Italy25,363,742 (ranked #8) 185,993(ranked #8) 42.08%
Chile5,081,862 (ranked #27)3,289 (ranked#14)63,466(ranked #22) 
Colombia6,349,971 (ranked #22) 142,259(ranked #13)12.32%
Australia11,247,412 (ranked #14) 5,985 (ranked #10)17,712(ranked #50) 5943.14% 
Turkey17,042,722 (ranked #11)101,492 (ranked #19)   19.91%
Unchanged in 4 weeks

Indonesia6,725,458 (ranked #20)363160,719 (ranked #11)   478 new deaths in the last 14 days.824.09%NoNo
Malaysia5,032,146 (ranked #28) 32036,908 (ranked #29) 315.16%NoNo

Hong Kong2,817,707(ranked#41) 8,260 (ranked #8)12,693 (ranked#60) 345 new deaths in the last 14 days.7137.05%
China503,302 (ranked #91)

What Our Team Is Reading This Week