XBB 1.5’s Symptoms, Covid Infections Rise While RSV and Flu PlummetFrequent Business Traveler

January 6, 2023

A broom and garden at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,001st day of the pandemic.

The XBB 1.5 omicron sublineage now accounts for over 40% of new cases in the United States and initial assessments of the symptoms patients are presenting indicate that they aren’t terribly different from what earlier subvariants of omicron caused, namely congestion and body aches.

Nationally, the new subvariant represented an estimated 40.5% of cases in the week ended December 31, up from approximately 10% two weeks earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The symptom profile has shifted with each mutation and to some extent with some subvariants.  The original omicron variant caused more cold-like symptoms including runny nose, fever, sneezing, muscle aches, and fatigue, while the alpha and delta variants frequently triggered anosmia, the partial or full loss of smell, and ageusia, the loss of taste..

If you find yourself to be congested and, especially, if that congestion is accompanied by body aches, do yourself a favor and take a coronavirus test, please.  And while you’re at it, report the findings to the CDC’s makemytestcount.org website so it can be tallied and used by scientists and researchers.

In other news we cover today, we look at a disturbing trend in China that younger Chinese are voluntarily self-infecting themselves with Covid and, in the United States, RSV and influenza cases are on the decline, while Covid cases are soaring.


CDC data shows RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, cases that clogged hospitals in November are significantly down and the number of influenza cases is dropping quickly as well, albeit not to the same extent as RSV.  The death toll from the flu has, however, already hit 13,000 and 61 of those were children.

The city of Danbury, Connecticut, is paying municipal employees who went to work while the rest of the state was locked down in the early days of the pandemic a significant bonus.  It will give firefighters a one-time payment of $3,600 and health department staff $2,000.


The BBC is reporting that a number of younger Chinese are voluntarily self-infecting themselves with SARS-CoV-2.  A 27-year-old non-vaccinated programmer in Shanghai told the network that he voluntarily exposed himself to the virus “[B]ecause I don’t want to change my holiday plan,” he said, “and I could make sure I recovered and won’t be infected again during the holiday if I intentionally control the time I get infected.”  Another Shanghai resident, a 26-year-old woman, told the BBC that she visited her friend who had tested positive “so I could get Covid as well.”  Her recovery, she said, was hard: “I thought it would be like getting a cold but it was much more painful.”

Taiwan has again offered to provide mainland China with assistance to help it deal with the current and massive surge in SARS-CoV-2 cases. At press time, Taiwan media reported that Chinese authorities have not yet responded.


Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, January 6.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 667.5 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million cases, and 6.7 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 638.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.5 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday at press time is 21,878,264, an increase of 287,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 21,834,386, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 43,878, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 115,834 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 207,391 on Thursday, 76,128 on Wednesday, 10,893 on Tuesday, and 4,000 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 64,731.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 65,083, a decrease of 8% averaged over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 474, an increase of 12% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 47,608, an increase of 14%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 5,621, an increase of 16% and the test positivity rate is now 16%, a 26% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded just over 103 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.12 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,707.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 39.4 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.5 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 694,625, has recorded 36.5 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 30 million cases, South Korea, with 29.4 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.1 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.1 million, and Russia, with just over 21.8 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 268.5 million people in the United States – or 80.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.1%, or 229.3 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 665.1 million. Breaking this down further, 91.8% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.1 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.8% of the same group – or 203.4 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 17.7% of the same population, or over 45.7 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 69.1% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.18 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.8 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 25.9% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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