New COVID-19 variant on CDC's radar

As COVID-19 variant XBB.1.5 declines in prominence, the CDC began tracking new omicron variants June 23, including XBB.1.5 descendant EU.1.1. 

In the U.S., 1.7 percent of COVID-19 infections are from EU.1.1, and in the Northwest region including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and the Dakotas, the variant already accounts for 8.7 percent of cases. 

It is unclear which new variant will assume dominance as the CDC now lists 22 variants jockeying for control. 

Here are three things to know about COVID-19: 

1. More hospitalizations and deaths are from reinfections, according to the CDC.

2. The FDA instructed vaccine makers to update their COVID-19 shot formulas to solely focus on the XBB variant, and Moderna filed its version for approval. As of June 24, XBB variants make up 96.1 percent of infections. 

3. A declassified report from U.S. intelligence did not clarify whether the COVID-19 outbreak in fall 2019 spurred from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, or an animal-to-human transmission. 

The report, which was written by the National Intelligence Officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation and coordinated with the intelligence community, concluded both hypotheses are "plausible."

"We assess that some scientists at the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] have genetically engineered coronaviruses using common laboratory practices," the report said. "The [intelligence community] has no information, however, indicating that any WIV genetic engineering work has involved SARS-CoV-2, a close progenitor, or a backbone virus that is closely-related enough to have been the source of the pandemic."

The intelligence community said it did not find a biosafety incident that could have prompted the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Energy Department and FBI said a lab incident is more likely.

In contrast, the National Intelligence Council and four unnamed agencies said an infected animal was the most likely scenario for the first human infection. This hypothesis could not be confirmed; some researchers in Wuhan who became ill in fall 2019 had worked with animal respiratory viruses, but the intelligence community could not determine they "handled live viruses in the work they performed prior to falling ill."


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