Jan 9, 2023 - Health

Health experts warn of another COVID wave

Illustration of a pattern of covid particles and positive signs turning into each other.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The dizzying spread of the newest Omicron variant XBB.1.5 — also nicknamed Kraken — has public health experts warning of yet another potential COVID wave in the U.S.

Why it matters: While the severity isn't clear yet, it's "the most transmissible form of Omicron to date," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, said, according to CNN.

State of play: The CDC's estimates now show that the XBB.1.5 variant made up 18.3% of cases for the week ending on Dec. 31, 2022, and 27.6% of sequenced cases for the week ending on Jan. 7, Axios' Herb Scribner writes.

The big picture: This comes as monoclonal antibodies have been rendered largely ineffective against current COVID variants, Politico reported.

  • At the same time, pandemic-era investments in virus surveillance, new vaccines and treatments are winding down.
  • The public has largely abandoned mitigation strategies like masking, and there's been a far lower uptake of the bivalent booster than anticipated.

What they are saying: "We've moved from complacency to frank capitulation at just the wrong time," Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

  • "If XBB.1.5 is telling us one thing, it's that we can't be oblivious. We're all tired, but we're up against a force that isn't," Topol said.

[This story first appeared in the daily Axios Vitals newsletter, designed to keep readers up to date on health care politics, policy and business.]

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