The new Covid-19 variant XBB.1.5 is more contagious, says the New York State health department

The New York State Department of Health recently updated New Yorkers about the XBB.1.5 variant, which now accounts for more than 50% of COVID-19 cases in New York. Based on samples sequenced and uploaded to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), the world’s largest database for COVID-19 variant data, the XBB.1.5 variant is the predominant strain in the state.

“Since it emerged, the COVID-19 virus has continued to change,” said interim state health commissioner Dr. James McDonald. “The new dual-purpose booster has been updated to address these changes, which is why it’s so important that all New Yorkers 6 months and older get the important protection it offers. The booster provides significant protection against becoming seriously ill or hospitalized, and according to the latest data from the CDC, those who received the bivalent booster were more than 18 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. .

Emerging at a time when both COVID-19 and influenza cases are high, early data indicate that XBB.1.5 is capable of spreading more rapidly than other variants currently circulating. While there is still no clear evidence of significant changes in disease virulence or severity at this stage, the Department reminds all New Yorkers to take precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones from a rapidly evolving strain:

Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and get bivalent booster (all 6 months of age and older).

It’s not too late: Get the flu shot (everyone 6 months and older).

Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Clean and disinfect commonly used objects and surfaces.

Cough and sneeze into a handkerchief or elbow and teach children to do the same.

Consider wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces, when you feel unwell, in crowded places, or around people at increased risk of becoming seriously ill.

Ventilate the interior or open the windows, especially when gathering with others.

Stay home when you are sick, learn the symptoms of common respiratory viruses and get tested.

If COVID-positive, contact a provider or the toll-free 1-888-TREAT-NY hotline or website for an evaluation and free medication.

As respiratory viruses spread, people who live with, care for, or are near someone who is at risk of becoming seriously ill (including children under 1, adults over 65, or those with a compromised immune system) should be especially vigilant with mask wearing, with scientific evidence supporting this simple precautionary measure.

To prevent serious illness and hospitalization, COVID-positive New Yorkers should seek out safe medications or treatments that are most effective when taken within the first few days of symptoms. New Yorkers who do not have a regular physician can call the State hotline at 1-888-TREAT-NY (1-888-364-3065) or visit the NYS COVID-19 Express Care Therapeutics Access website for a free telemedicine with a doctor, who will look at your symptoms and prescribe Paxlovid or Molnupiravir.

To schedule a free COVID-19 vaccine appointment, bivalent booster, or flu shot, visit, text a zip code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233. At, after entering a 5-digit zip code, New Yorkers can click on “Updated Vaccines” and select the age-appropriate bivalent booster type they are looking to book an appointment for themselves or their own children aged 6 months and over. New Yorkers can also contact a health care provider, local pharmacy, or county health department regarding the availability of a vaccine appointment.

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