Where XBB is most prevalent: 5 COVID-19 updates

In about a week since the CDC started tracking omicron subvariant XBB, it has grown to account for 5.5 percent of U.S. cases, according to the latest variant proportionate estimates

The strain — a recombinant of two other omicron subvariants — accounted for about 3 percent of cases for the week ending Nov. 26. It's most prevalent in the Northeast, where in HHS region 1 it makes up 11 percent of cases and 9 percent of cases in region 2 — which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York and New Jersey. 

There has been no indication XBB is more severe than other omicron subvariants, though early evidence suggests it carries a higher reinfection risk, the World Health Organization said in October. Click here to read more about the strain.

Four more COVID-19 updates: 

1. Cases, hospitalizations and test positivity are rising nationwide, according to HHS data compiled by The New York Times. COVID-19 metrics had remained relatively stable throughout the fall. Now, the nation's seven-day average for new cases is up 28 percent from two weeks ago, hospitalizations are up 28 percent and test positivity is up 40 percent. The rise in hospitalizations comes as the highly transmissible BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 account for nearly 63 percent of cases, and as hospitals also grapple with a surge influ patients. On the other hand, COVID-19 deaths have fallen in recent weeks, with a seven-day average of 250 as of Dec. 4.

2. Long COVID-19, an affliction that affects between 7.7 million and 23 million Americans, is projected to cost the U.S. economy $3.7 trillion, according to David Cutler, an economist at Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University. His forecasts show medical spending reaching $528 billion. 

3. The FDA revoked the emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly's $2,100-per-vial COVID-19 drug Nov. 30 because BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 lowered the treatment's efficacy by more than 672-fold. The drug, bebtelovimab, was the only monoclonal COVID-19 antibody treatment to be authorized. 

4. Pfizer and Moderna have not published information about their respective vaccines' efficacy against XBB. Against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, Pfizer's omicron-targeted booster is 8.7 times stronger compared to its original vaccine. Moderna has not disclosed data but said its new booster showed "robust neutralizing activity" against BQ.1.


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