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‘Troublesome' New COVID Variants Spreading in New England, Across US

BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 now account for 7.1% of cases in the region

By Marc Fortier and Mary Markos • Published October 18, 2022 • Updated on October 19, 2022 at 7:49 am

Two new COVID-19 variants that quietly emerged on the scene over the last few weeks -- ones that Dr. Anthony Fauci has described as "pretty troublesome" -- are becoming increasingly prevalent in the Boston area and stoking fresh concerns as the nation braces for yet another potential winter surge, the latest CDC data shows.

You may not have heard of these two subvariants before -- BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Both are descendants of omicron, which has proven to be the most vaccine-elusive and infectious COVID variant to date, and both are spreading at rapid rates.According to the CDC, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 each account for 5.7% of U.S. COVID cases, about 11.4% of the total. They barely registered on the CDC dashboard to start the month, accounting for 1.8% and 1% of cases, respectively.

In New England, the numbers are a bit lower, with BQ.1.1 accounting for 4% of cases and BQ.1 3.1% for a total of 7.1%. That's far lower than in the New York region, where the two variants account for almost 20% of total cases. Throughout the pandemic, COVID numbers in New York have often provided an early look at what Massachusetts and the other southern New England states have in store. Across New England, COVID cases have started to creep up in recent weeks. Massachusetts health officials reported 7,865 new COVID-19 cases and 60 new deaths in last week's report. The state's seven-day average positivity was listed at 8.60% Thursday, compared to 7.76% last week.

The CDC's COVID risk level has also been steadily rising across southern New England of late, with all of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island now included in the medium risk category.

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