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Comparative Dynamics of Delta and Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Variants across and between California and Mexico.

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Evolutionary analysis using viral sequence data can elucidate the epidemiology of transmission. Using publicly available SARS-CoV-2 sequence and epidemiological data, we developed discrete phylogeographic models to interrogate the emergence and dispersal of the Delta and Omicron variants in 2021 between and across California and Mexico. External introductions of Delta and Omicron in the region peaked in early July (2021-07-10 [95% CI: 2021-04-20, 2021-11-01]) and mid-December (2021-12-15 [95% CI: 2021-11-14, 2022-01-09]), respectively, 3 months and 2 weeks after first detection. These repeated introductions coincided with domestic migration events with no evidence of a unique transmission hub. The spread of Omicron was most consistent with gravity centric patterns within Mexico. While cross-border events accounted for only 5.1% [95% CI: 4.3-6] of all Delta migration events, they accounted for 20.6% [95% CI: 12.4-29] of Omicron movements, paralleling the increase in international travel observed in late 2021. Our investigations of the Delta and Omicron epidemics in the California/Mexico region illustrate the complex interplay and the multiplicity of viral and structural factors that need to be considered to limit viral spread, even as vaccination is reducing disease burden. Understanding viral transmission patterns may help intra-governmental responses to viral epidemics.

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