What there is to know
- You’ve probably heard of the XBB.1.5 variant; it’s the latest “most transmissible COVID variant to date” and appears to bind better to human cells, which may make it more adept at infecting
- There is no evidence at this point that the strain, a combination of two earlier omicron subvariants, is more lethal or more likely to cause COVID-related complications, but as a senior official said from the White House last week, if you haven’t been vaccinated or infected recently. , your protection is probably not as good
- Nowhere is XBB.1.5 more prevalent than in the northeastern United States, according to the CDC – and hospitalization and death rates, as well as cases, are rising accordingly
COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York and New Jersey hit 11-month highs as the most transmissible variant yet, a combination of two earlier omicron strains, is fueling another wave of infection near three full years into the pandemic, the latest federal health data Show.
Deaths are also rising, with weekly death reports for both states currently at their highest since the start of last year, according to the CDC. In New York, the rolling average for COVID deaths is the highest since February 2022, while continued hospitalizations are at a level not seen since the decline of the initial omicron wave.
CDC COVID guidelines say face masks should be worn in all areas in New York, 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, according to its latest data. Although elected officials and their health departments have advised people to follow these guidelines, particularly if they are more vulnerable in terms of age or underlying conditions, no new mandates have been issued.
And no new terms are expected either at this stage of the pandemic.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, both Democrats, are each scheduled to deliver their state of the state addresses on Tuesday. It remains to be seen whether the ongoing COVID response will once again play a significant role in these discourses. Given these graphs, the odds are pretty likely.
NEW YORK STATE COVID TRENDS (via CDC)
CASES AND DEATHS
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 over 50% of infections statewide. This share is likely considerably higher, given the relatively small proportion of positive tests that undergo the process of exhaustive genetic sequencing to isolate variants.
The same can be said for New Jersey, where the 38.4% share of XBB.1.5-related sequence cases reflects data not updated since mid-December. In New York, where the data also lags, the prevalence of XBB.1.5 is likely much higher than the 68% share the health department last updated on Christmas Eve.
NEW JERSEY COVID TRENDS
The latest data from the CDC suggests that XBB.1.5 is spreading in the northeastern United States at a much higher rate than the rest of the country, accounting for up to 81% of cases in the region including New York and New York. Jersey, against 43% high estimate for the nation.
Although there is “not yet clear evidence”, according to New York State, that XBB.1.5 significantly affects the virulence or severity of COVID disease, early data indicates that it is more infectious than other circulating variants. The fact that it emerged at a time when COVID and flu cases remain high is further reason for heightened caution, the report said.
New York City’s positivity rates confirm communicability issues, with more than a third of neighborhoods in all five boroughs seeing those numbers above 20% — and some places exceeding 30% positivity.
NYC COVID VARIANT AND HOSPITALIZATION DATA
Omicron is still classified as a variant of concern according to the CDC and the World Health Organization. This strain, which first appeared in South Africa in November 2021, although it probably existed there earlier, is the only variant of concern currently in circulation, according to the WHO.
According to the WHO, to be a variant of concern, a strain must be associated with one or more of the following changes to a degree of global significance:
- Increased transmissibility or detrimental change in the epidemiology of COVID-19; OR
- Increase in virulence or change in the clinical presentation of the disease; OR
- Decreased effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, treatments
The CDC said the new COVID-19 variant is responsible for 75% of new cases.
Given their level of infectivity and ongoing mutation, the WHO advises to separately monitor each omicron descendant. That’s what officials in New York and New Jersey continue to do as they implore the public to double down on the mitigating factors that have proven effective since the start of the pandemic, hand washing and staying at home. home if sick to vaccination, masking in crowded areas and getting tested regularly.
Hochul continues to urge New Yorkers — and the White House, too — to get their updated bivalent booster shots if they haven’t already (see vaccine data). The head of the White House COVID task force recently underscored this point, saying that if you haven’t recently been infected or had this booster, you’re probably not protected against XBB. .1.5.
Overall, experts say healthy, vaccinated people are still at much lower risk of COVID-related complications than immunocompromised or unimmunized and under-vaccinated people.
As Hochul said in his latest COVID update, “I urge everyone to remain vigilant and continue to use all available tools to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. Stay up to date on the vaccine doses and test before gatherings or If you test positive, talk to your doctor about potential treatment options.