The new COVID-19 omicron variant XBB.1.5 has been identified in the El Paso community. City health officials are encouraging residents to continue practicing safety protocols as the new variant is currently the country’s fastest-spreading coronavirus subvariant.
City of El Paso Department of Public Health officials in a news release reminded the public that viruses constantly change through mutation, often resulting in a new variant of the virus.
"Some variations allow the virus to spread more easily or make it resistant to treatments or vaccines. As the virus spreads, it may change and may become harder to stop," the release states.
“As new variants of concern circulate in the country it is just a matter of time before we see the variants circulating across our community,” City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said in the release. “COVID has not disappeared and has not left our community; people are getting infected and some are requiring hospitalization due to COVID. Unfortunately, with new variants of concern circulating, we need to continue to be cautious for us and our community.”
The period of infectiousness for the new variant is similar to that of the other omicron variants that have been circulating over the past year: Individuals infected with the virus are contagious one to two days before symptoms begin and remain contagious for at least two to three days after symptoms begin.
Health officials note that for some, it might take five days to develop symptoms, stressing the importance of getting the vaccine or a booster.
Where to get COVID booster in El Paso
Health officials highly recommend residents continue practicing safety precautions, such as washing hands frequently, observing social distances and wearing a face covering, regardless of whether someone is vaccinated or not.
Individuals interested in obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine, the bivalent COVID-19 Moderna booster or the bivalent Pfizer third dose may do so with no appointment needed. The following locations are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday: 9341 Alameda Ave., 7380 Remcon Circle, 9566 Railroad Drive, and 220 S. Stanton St. (corner of First Street and Stanton)
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit EPCovidVaccine.com or call 915-212-6843.
María Cortés González may be reached at 915-546-6150, email@example.com and @EPTMaria on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: New COVID Variant in El Paso: Experts urge residents to get booster