As new COVID variants emerge, so do concerns about transmissibility, mitigation

Posted at 12:30 PM, Jan 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-17 19:19:38-05

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — A retired senior citizen, Deborah Cetways has resumed wearing a mask as flu and RSV, COVID cases rise in the U.S.

7 Action News asked Deborah, "Are you concerned about the new COVID variant?"

"Oh yes, oh yes, that and other things besides that," Cetways said.

Now, with the subvariant XBB 1.5 in play, Dr. Mathew Sims from Corewell Health East says post-holiday, folks should be concerned.

"It exploded basically in New York, in New England, and then a week or so later it went down the coast, into Florida, into Texas. It hasn't really come this way yet," said Dr. Sims.

"Probably within the next week or two we will see the numbers of XBB 1.5 go up here in Michigan is my guess."

While there is no evidence so far that XBB.1.5 is more virulent than its predecessors, Dr. Sims tells me, the Omicron subvariant is highly transmissible, but hospitalizations and ICU cases are still low.

"The vaccines don't work quite as well, they still give reasonable protection, especially if you had the booster. It will still help people to keep them out of the hospital to save people's lives, but it's not going to prevent you from getting it," Dr. Sims said.

"Look, we have to live with this, it's not going away," said Dr. Sims.

Since the start of the pandemic, we've seen several prominent variants, including Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron and not to mention their subvariants. That's why, as part of the evolution of viruses, experts say XBB 1.5 will not be the last.

"A person got infected with two different strains, and when the strains were in that person, they recombined, so they took a little from one, a little from the other, and made XBB," Dr. Sims explained.

Meanwhile, some companies have re-started COVID protocols. Sunday Akinbode works for a tech company, and he tells me that while he can still work from home, his co-workers who still go to the office are back to the drawing board.

"What kind of precautions are they taking?" 7 Action News asked Akinbode.

"Six feet distance, masking, making sure their hands are clean," said Akinbode.

Now, besides getting vaccinated and boosted, Dr. Sims says your best protection against existing and new variants is still going to be masking, social distancing, and hand sanitizing when and wherever possible.