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Concerning New COVID-19 Variant Emerges Just In Time for Mardi Gras
Scientists say XBB.1.5. is more infectious than some other variants, and 63 times less likely to be neutralized by current vaccinations/boosters.
At this point, everyone is tired of hearing about new COVID-19 variants. But while most people simply want to move on from the pandemic, that wishful thinking doesn’t stop new variants from triggering new waves of infection. On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s variant dashboard showed a new subvariant, XBB.1.5, has more than doubled its share of of COVID-19 infections each week for the past four weeks, and now accounts for 75% of new cases.
According to a CNN report, this new variant is is a dangerous combination of subvariants that is 63 times less likely to be neutralized by the antibodies produced from vaccination or previous infection than the previous dominant subvariant BA.2. In addition, XBB.1.5 has a key mutation that make it more infectious than previous subvariants. That being said, current vaccinations and updated boosters should still provide some protection.
“They still provide a level of immunity that may not prevent you from getting infected but may have a significant impact on whether or not you become seriously ill and die,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
With crowds gathering in the city for Mardi Gras, it’s likely that New Orleans could become the epicenter for a new wave of COVID-19 infections once again. That’s concerning, considering that New Orleans hospitals are already approaching max capacity.
According to recent data, University Medical Center is already at 97.3% of patient capacity, Touro Infirmary is at 83.5%, Oschner Medical Center is at 77.6%, New Orleans East Hospital is at 76.6%, Children’s Hospital is at 73.4%, and Tulane medical center is at 52.3%. The Louisiana Department of health reported 7,090 new cases of COVID-19 across the state from 12/26 - 1/1; the Orleans Parish COVID-19 dashboard was not loading at the time of this report.
Currently the guidance for avoiding infection remains the same: if you are planning to take part in the festivites and join the parade crowds, or if you are indoors, mask up with an N95 mask. If you develop symptoms, rapid tests continue to be effective at detecting infection. Most importantly, get your vaccine and boosters as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.
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ReportNOLA is the sole creation of Jennsen Bentley - a local, independent journalist who is dedicated to serving the community of New Orleans. As a proud member of the Society of Professional Journalists, he is dedicated to ethical reporting on issues that matter.