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COVID-19: Subvariant XBB Rapidly Spreading Statewide, Prompting NY Health Department Warning

COVID Photo Credit: PIRO4D Pixabay

As the new COVID-19 variant named XBB.1.5 rapidly spreads through New York, officials are urging people to receive their booster shots to protect themselves. 

The variant, which spreads more quickly than other currently circulating strains of the virus, is already making up more than 50 percent of cases in the state, making it the predominant strain, according to the New York Department of Health. 

Although it is not yet clear if the XBB.1.5 variant is more severe than other strains, health officials are still warning New Yorkers to get their booster shots to protect themselves. 

"Since it emerged, the COVID-19 virus continues to change," said Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald, who added that the bivalent booster now available was made to address this.

"It is so important that all New Yorkers 6 months and older get the important protection it offers. The booster provides significant protection against getting very sick or being hospitalized, and according to the latest data from CDC, those who received the bivalent booster were more than 18 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to unvaccinated people," McDonald added. 

Because cases of the XBB.1.5 variant are rising alongside other respiratory viruses such as the flu, officials said that wearing a mask is a good idea, especially for those who live, care for, or are around people who are either under one year of age or over 65 years. 

Health officials also gave the following tips to avoid infection: 

  • Get the flu shot;
  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds;
  • Clean commonly-used surfaces;
  • Cough and sneeze into an elbow or tissue;
  • Ventilate indoor spaces or open a window;
  • Wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces or around at-risk people.

In New York, people in 15 counties are currently recommended to wear masks indoors by the CDC, including those in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Nassau, Suffolk, Albany, and Rensselaer Counties. 

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