XBB.1.5 variant explodes across region as Boston-area COVID wastewater levels surge, Massachusetts virus cases jump 21%

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The highly contagious XBB.1.5 omicron variant continues to quickly spread across the region, as the Boston-area COVID wastewater levels jump to recordings not seen since last winter’s surge.

XBB now accounts for more than 75% of new virus cases in New England, according to this week’s variant update from the CDC. That’s a major increase from 52% of new cases during the previous week.

“Whether we’ll have an XBB.1.5 wave (and if yes, how big) will depend on many factors,” tweeted Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. “Including immunity of the population, people’s actions, etc.

“Here’s what folks can do to minimize risk,” he added. “1. Make sure you are up to date on the bivalent booster (critical) 2. Test before large gatherings or before seeing someone vulnerable (I did over the holidays) 3. Wear a high-quality mask in crowded indoor spaces.”

The Boston-area COVID wastewater levels are spiking as the variant circulates. The virus wastewater data has helped predict COVID waves throughout the pandemic.

The seven-day average in the south-of-Boston region is up to 1,661 viral copies per milliliter, which is a jump from 1,440 viral copies in the report at this time last week. The average on Thanksgiving was 721 viral copies.

The north-of-Boston region’s seven-day average has surged to 1,947 viral copies per milliliter, a significant increase from 1,254 viral copies in last week’s report. The average on Thanksgiving was 483 viral copies.

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