what to know
- You’ve probably heard of version XBB.1.5; It is the latest “most infectious COVID variant to date” and appears to bind to human cells, potentially making it more efficient at infecting.
- At this time, there is no evidence that the strain, a combination of the first two Omicron subvariants, is more lethal or more likely to cause COVID complications, but as a senior White House official said last week, If you haven’t been vaccinated recently or have been infected, your protection probably isn’t as good.
- According to the CDC, nowhere is XBB.1.5 more prevalent than in the northeastern United States, and hospitalizations and death rates, along with cases, are rising accordingly.
NEW YORK — COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York and New Jersey soared to an 11-month high in the most transmissible variant ever, a combination of two old Omicron strains, nearly three years after the pandemic hit another of the infections. The wave promotes, most recent federal health data show.
Deaths are also on the rise, according to the CDC, with weekly death reports for both states at their highest levels since early last year. In New York City, the moving average of COVID deaths is the highest it has been since February 2022, while mobile hospitalizations are at levels not seen since Omicron’s initial wave of falls.
The CDC’s COVID guidelines say wearing face masks should be mandatory in New York City, Long Island and much of the Hudson Valley, given the high rate of spread. And the entire state of New Jersey is at the agency’s highest risk level, its most recent data shows. While elected officials and their health departments have advised people to follow those guidelines, especially if they are more vulnerable in terms of age or underlying conditions, no new mandates have been issued.
Nor is there hope for a new mandate at this time in the pandemic.
New York Gov. Cathy Hochul and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, both Democrats, are set to deliver their state of the nation addresses on Tuesday. Whether the ongoing COVID response will once again play a major role in those discourses remains to be seen. Looking at these graphs the probability is quite likely.
Last week, the New York State Department of Health announced that the XBB.1.5 variant is by far the most locally dominant strain, accounting for more than 50% of infections across the state. This proportion is likely to be significantly higher given the relatively low proportion of positive tests, which undergo the extensive process of genetic sequencing to differentiate variants.
The same is true for New Jersey, where 38.4% of cases with sequences associated with XBB.1.5 reflect data older than mid-December. In New York City, where data is also lagging, the prevalence of XBB.1.5 is probably higher than the 68% updated by the health department on Christmas Eve.
The most recent data from the CDC show that XBB.1.5 is spreading at a much higher rate in the northeastern United States than in the rest of the country, accounting for 81% of cases in the region that includes New York and New Jersey. compared to the 43% higher estimate for the nation.
While there is “no clear evidence yet” according to New York State, that XBB.1.5 significantly affects the virulence of COVID or the severity of disease, preliminary data indicates that it is more infectious than other circulating variants . The fact that it comes at a time when cases of both COVID and flu remain high is additional reason for increased caution, he says.
New York City’s positivity rate is confirming concerns about transmission, with more than a third of neighborhoods in the five boroughs seeing numbers above 20%, with some locations exceeding 30% positivity.
Omicron is still classified as a variant of concern according to the CDC and the World Health Organization. That strain, which first emerged in South Africa in November 2021, though likely earlier, is the only worrisome variant currently in circulation according to the WHO.
To be a type of concern, the WHO states that a stressor must be associated with one or more of the following changes to a degree of global significance:
- increased transmissibility or deleterious changes in the epidemiology of COVID-19; either
- increased severity or change in the clinical presentation of the disease; either
- Lack of effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines and treatments
Given its level of transmissibility and ongoing mutation, WHO recommends that each descendant of Omicron be monitored individually. That’s what officials in New York and New Jersey continue to do as they urge the public to double down on mitigation factors that have been proven to work since the start of the pandemic, washing their hands and staying home when sick. From living to getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in crowded areas and getting regular checkups.
Hochul also urged New Yorkers and the White House to get their updated bivalent booster shots, if they haven’t already (see Vaccine Data). The head of the White House Task Force on COVID recently underscored this point, saying that if you haven’t been infected recently or haven’t gotten that booster, you probably aren’t safe from XBB.1.5.
In general, experts say healthy, vaccinated people are still at much lower risk of COVID complications than people who are immunocompromised or unvaccinated or under-vaccinated.
As Hochul said in his latest COVID update, “I urge everyone to stay vigilant and continue to use all available tools to keep themselves, their loved ones and their communities safe and healthy.” Stay up-to-date on testing and testing. Before appointments 0 If you have a positive result, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.”