Health experts expect XBB.1.5 COVID subvariant in Arizona soon

New COVID variant XBB.1.5 causing concern
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 7:33 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Almost three years since the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in the United States a new variant is now taking center stage.

Medical professionals are calling it “the most transmissible” strain of the virus yet.

According to Dr. Mary Derby, chief epidemiologist with the Pima County Health Department, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations nationwide are up 15% and she says those numbers will go up each week.

The reason behind this surge? The new XBB.1.5 COVID variant.

“Statewide we are seeing XBB,” Derby said. “We aren’t yet seeing in the state or the county XBB.1.5.”

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the new variant makes up almost 28% of all COVID-19 cases across the United States. In the northeast where the strain is prominent, XBB.1.5 is responsible for 70% of all new coronavirus cases.

Even though the new variant hasn’t reached Arizona yet, health professionals here in the state know it’s just a matter of time before it does.

“We could have a surge in the next couple of weeks and that in fact has been a trend,” Derby said. “When cases increase in other parts of the county, they make their way here.”

As for COVID hospitalizations in Tucson. Banner Health said they are on the rise.

“COVID hospitalizations are increasing but they make up fewer than 10 percent of all patients, compared with nearly 40 percent at earlier stages of the pandemic ... Banner has adequate capacity to care for patients at this time.”

Senior Regional Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Banner Health

Medical experts in the state want to make it clear the emergence of this new variant did not come from more people getting vaccinated, which has been rumored.

They say staying up-to-date with vaccines is important, not only to protect yourself and your family but those on the front line.

“If we all take care of ourselves and take on these preventative measures, we can stay healthier, protect ourselves, our families, our loved ones,” Derby said. “Of course, we keep a burden off the hospital, which is also treating patients for other reasons as well.”

Even though, it may be tiring for some. Derby says it’s important now, more than ever to stay home if sick. She adds people shouldn’t worry if they do test positive for the virus because there is help out there.