COVID: CDC Investigating XBB.1.5 Strain

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new omicron subvariant has taken hold in the US. The so-called "XBB.1.5" has raised concerns about a new wave of COVID cases following the holiday season.

COVID: CDC Investigating XBB.1.5 Strain
Image credit: Napendra Singh / Unsplash

Facts

  • According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new omicron subvariant has taken hold in the US. The so-called "XBB.1.5" has raised concerns about a new wave of COVID cases following the holiday season.
  • The CDC estimates that XBB.1.5 rose from 4% to 41% of new infections in the US in December and now accounts for 75% of new cases in the northeast region of the country.
  • Dr. David Ho, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, says XBB.1.5 is 63 times less likely to be neutralized by antibodies in the blood of infected and vaccinated people than previous variants.
  • The rise of XBB.1.5 comes as COVID hospitalizations accelerated across the US in recent weeks. The pace of hospital admissions is now worse than this past summer's peak, but still lower than this time last winter.
  • The XBB.1.5 strain is a spinoff of the XBB variant, itself a "recombinant" blend of two prior Omicron strains. The two separate strains also caused a wave of infections overseas earlier this year.

Sources: NBC, CNN, China Daily, and CBS.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by The Guardian. When surveying emerging COVID threats, China's surging infection rates are at the epicenter of the greatest risk. There’s no need to panic, but testing at least a random sampling of passengers on flights originating in China is prudent. This will help to keep track of new variants and keep US mitigation measures reasonable.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Reuters. It’s important to remain concerned about rising COVID cases in China, but the XBB.1.5 variant is a "homegrown" and immediate threat in the US. It’s ironic that while many are focusing on China, the worst variant the world is facing right now came from the US. Now is a time for taking serious public health action rather than blaming other nations.