There's a new kid on the block and it's making moves to become the king of the block. The new BQ COVID-19 variant is spreading very quickly in New York State. You may not be familiar with the new Omicron variant BQ, which includes BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, but it is certainly getting familiar with New Yorkers.

Another variant, XBB, that hasn't shown up in New York State just yet, is causing concern. According to a tweet from Dr. Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute,

The XBB variant wave in Singapore will soon be their 2nd worst for the pandemic. The reinfection rate prior to the wave was 5% and now up to 17%, which tells us about the immune escape properties of this variant (akin to BQ.1.1, very high level of immune evasion).


What Percentage Of COVID-19 Cases In New York Are BQ?

It's not just New York. The BQ Omicron variant is spreading fast all around the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 make up 9.4 percent and 7.2 percent of recent cases respectively. Here in New York, the numbers are actually a bit higher than nationally.

Between October 9 and October 15, 2022 CDC’s program for HHS Region 2 (New York, New Jersey, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico) estimated 100% of samples were the Omicron variant. During this time period 1.9% of sequences were BA.2.75, 2.3% were BA.2.75.2, 0.4% were BA.4, 12.5% were BA.4.6, 57.4% were BA.5, 5.9% were BF.7, 11.6% were BQ.1, and 8.0% were BQ.1.1.

COVID-19 Omicron Booster Shots Administered Along With Other Vaccines At Chicago Senior Center
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The BQ variant is almost 20 percent of cases as of October 15. That's coupled with the fact that flu season has been called aggressive here in New York. According to the NY Department of Health,

Influenza activity level was categorized as geographically widespread. This is the second consecutive week widespread activity has been reported. Laboratories tested 36,477 specimens for influenza, of which 1,005 (3%) were positive, a 49% increase over last week.

The good news is that many regions that had high 7-day COVID-19 positivity rates seem to be down a little. Here's a snapshot of the positivity rates across New York, as of October 20, 2022,

Statewide - 6.37%

New York City - 5.30%

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Long Island - 6.48%

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Mid-Hudson - 6.58%

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Finger Lakes - 7.13%

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Central New York - 7.64%

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Southern Tier - 8.39%

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Mohawk Valley - 8.89%

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Capital Region - 9.17%

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North Country - 9.46%

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Western New York - 9.84%

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CDC Says You Should Mask Up In These 12 Upstate New York Counties

The CDC has designated these 12 Upstate New York counties as currently "high-risk" for COVID as of October 12, 2022 and is recommending residents wear masks because of that designation. The designation is based on the number of hospital admissions per 100,000 residents in a 7 day period. 8 of the 9 counties below are in Upstate New York with 5 In the Capital Region receiving the "high" designation.

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