Omicron subvariants continued to account for more new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. in the latest week than did BA.5, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which are sublineages of BA.5, accounted for 67.9% of cases in the week through Dec. 10, while BA.5 accounted for 11.5%, the data show.
Last week, BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 accounted for 62.8% of all cases in the U.S., while BA.5 accounted for 13.8%.
In the New York region, which includes New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the numbers were even higher, with BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounting for 73.3% of new cases, compared with 10% for BA.5.
In the previous week, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounted for 72.4% of all cases, compared with 6.9% for BA.5.
New York City is again emerging as a hot spot for COVID, according to a New York Times tracker, which shows cases up about 60% in recent weeks and hospitalizations at their highest level since February.
The test-positivity rate in New York City stood at 13% on Thursday, the tracker shows.
Overall, known U.S. cases are up 53% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations is up 30% at 37,066, while the daily average for deaths is up 35% to 460.
For now, the numbers remain far below the peaks seen last winter, when omicron first hit, but with flu and other respiratory infections currently sweeping the country and affecting young children, experts are warning people to take precautions.
Other COVID-19 news you should know about:
• A rash of COVID-19 cases in schools and businesses was reported by social-media users Friday in areas across China. This comes after the ruling Communist Party loosened its antivirus rules as it tries to reverse a deepening economic slump, the Associated Press reported. Official data showed a fall in new cases, but after the government on Wednesday ended mandatory testing for many people, those data no longer cover large parts of the population. That was among the dramatic changes aimed at gradually emerging from the zero-COVID restrictions that have confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign.
• U.S.-listed shares of China Jo-Jo Drugstores Inc. CJJD, +25.62% rallied on Friday as the stores filled with customers buying cold medicines after COVID restrictions were eased, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. The stock was up 22%. The company, which is based in Hangzhou, China, operates drugstores and an online pharmacy in China. It is also a wholesale distributor of pharmacy products and grows and sells herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.
• Pfizer PFE, +0.28% and German partner BioNTech BNTX, -1.18% have received fast-track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a single-dose mRNA-based vaccine candidate targeting both COVID and flu. The companies have already announced that they are in early-stage trials to review the safety and immunogenicity of their combined vaccine in healthy adults. The vaccine will target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron sublineages, which have become dominant globally, as well as four different flu strains recommended for use in the Northern Hemisphere by the World Health Organization. If approved, the vaccine would be the first to target both COVID and flu.
• A bill to rescind the COVID vaccine mandate for members of the U.S. military and to provide nearly $858 billion for national defense was passed by the House on Thursday as lawmakers scratch one of the final items off their yearly to-do list, the AP reported. The bill provides about $45 billion more for defense programs than President Joe Biden requested, the second consecutive year Congress has significantly exceeded his request, as lawmakers seek to boost the nation’s military competitiveness with China and Russia. The bill is expected to easily pass the Senate and then be signed into law by Biden.
Here’s what the numbers say:
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 648 million on Friday, while the death toll rose above 6.65 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 99.4 million cases and 1,084,236 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 228.6 million people living in the U.S., equal to 68.9% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, meaning they have had their primary shots.
So far, just 42 million Americans have had the updated COVID booster that targets the original virus and the omicron variants, equal to 13.5% of the overall population.