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Rapidly Growing JN.1 Variant and Widespread COVID Levels Pose Concern Ahead of Holidays: Professional Insights

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alongside information from wastewater analysis reveal considerable and concerning levels of COVID-19 across much of the nation as we approach the peak of the holiday season. Alarmingly, the dominance of the quickly proliferating JN.1 variant, which may account for half of all cases by month’s end, is significant.

The JN.1 variant, as reported by CNN, is currently responsible for roughly 20% of new COVID-19 infections in the United States, making it the nation’s fastest-growing viral strain. Already the dominant variant in the Northeast, it is estimated to be behind a third of new infections in the region. This strain has evolved from the BA.2.86, or Pirola, subvariant, which gained global attention over the summer due to over 30 significant alterations to its spike proteins.

Widespread COVID levels across the nation have been corroborated by latest data from the CDC and wastewater analysis reported by Axios. Leading into the holiday season, high to very high COVID-19 levels, as classified by the CDC, are being reported in nearly all states providing relevant data.

JN.1 was first identified in the U.S in September, and although it initially spread slowly, its prevalence has rapidly increased in recent weeks. As revealed by Time, it made up more than 20% of test samples sequenced by CDC-affiliated labs during the two-week period ending December 9. Some projections estimate the variant will be responsible for at least half of all new infections in the U.S before December concludes.

In addition to COVID concerns, flu activity is also on the rise. WDSU reports that Louisiana, along with South Carolina, are leading the nation in flu activity. Pointedly, the New Orleans Metro area has exhibited some of the highest incidences of the flu in Louisiana, with more than 54 novel patients admitted with the flu in the first week of December.

Corroborating the uptick in cases, CBS News published a statement by Dr. Teena Chopra, MPH, Corporate Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology and Antibiotic Stewardship at Detroit Medical Center. The increasing flu rates across the United States, particularly in Michigan, have led to new visitor restrictions for enhanced patient safety.

We also want to highlight related pandemic news from USA Today about how, unfortunately, schools’ ability to utilize COVID aid to help address student homelessness and chronic absenteeism will soon end. Hotel stays have been a vital resource in this effort, but the existing rules and funding for this initiative are soon to be discontinued.


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