New highly contagious Covid variant now predominant strain in New York state

    Syracuse, NY — The new highly contagious XBB.1.5 Covid variant has become the most predominant strain of the virus circulating in New York state, according to the state Health Department.

    The department is advising all New Yorkers 6 months and older to get the new Covid bivalent booster vaccination to protect themselves from XBB.1.5.

    That variant now accounts for more than 50% of the Covid cases across the state.

    Early data indicates XBB.1.5 may spread more rapidly than any other Covid variant.

    The department said the booster provides significant protection against getting very sick or being hospitalized. The CDC says those who received the bivalent booster were more than 18 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to unvaccinated people.

    The new variant has emerged at the same time seasonal flu activity is still relatively high in New York.

    XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of Omicron, a Covid variant.

    In addition to getting the new Covid booster, all New Yorkers 6 months and older should get flu shots, the department said.

    The department also advised the public to:

    • Consider wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask in public indoor spaces, when feeling sick or near individuals at increased risk of getting very sick.
    • Ventilate indoors by opening windows, particularly when gathering with others.

    To schedule a free COVID-19 vaccine, bivalent booster or flu shot appointment, visit, text a ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233.

    James T. Mulder covers health. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or [email protected]

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