Move over, BA.5, there's a new dominant omicron subvariant in Minnesota.
New wastewater data from the Metropolitan Council released Friday shows the BQ.1 subvariant, which is a descendent of BA.5, has become the dominant version of omicron in wastewater collected in the Twin Cities.
What's more is that the amount of coronavirus detected in wastewater has risen by 54% over the last two weeks and is now at its highest level since early July.
The BQ.1 subvariants (there's also one called BQ.1.1) make up about 58% of the viral RNA entering the Metro Plant, which receives wastewater from from 66 metro-area communities, serving nearly two million people.
Here's a graph showing the amount of coronavirus entering the Metro Plant each day along with the approximate number of new COVID-19 cases in the area the Metro Plant serves. You can see the massive omicron spike from last winter, rather steady levels since May, and then a move upward in recent weeks.
From a variant perspective, you can see the purple representing BA.5's dominant run from the summer until recently being overtaken by BQ.1 (green).
Despite BQ.1 becoming the driver of COVID cases in Minnesota and around the country, hospitalizations in Minnesota have not been surging.
The graph below shows a stable level of non-ICU and ICU hospital admissions, with the most recent report showing the number of people hospitalized with COVID in Minnesota increase from 520 on Nov. 22 to 573 on Nov. 29.
That falls in line with the idea that omicron subvariants are not as lethal as the delta variant from 2021. Eric Topol, a physician-scientist who directs the Scripps Research Translational Institute, produced evidence in early November that BQ.1 subvariants did not lead to an increase in hospitalizations in France, where it first became dominant, nor in New York.
Pfizer and Moderna have said that their bivalent booster, which are available in Minnesota, helps protect against severe disease from BQ.1 subvariants.