COVID-19: Highly-Infectious ‘Arcturus’ Variant First Detected In NY Now Identified In 27 States

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A new COVID-19 variant first detected in New York in January has now been identified in 27 states. Photo Credit: Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash.

Daily Voice

By Joe Lombardi

A new COVID-19 variant first detected in New York in January has now been identified in 27 states.

The so-called Arcturus strain — officially known as XBB.1.16 — is believed to be one of the most infectious versions of Omicron to date.

Shortly after the World Health Organization began monitoring the variant in late March, cases had been reported in about two dozen countries.

Arcturus has been sparking a surge of cases in India, prompting Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, to say of the new variant, “This is one to watch,” at a briefing earlier this month.

“One of the big uncertainties we face going forward is the virus itself,” Van Kerkhove said. “It hasn’t settled into a predictable pattern. It continues to evolve.”

The WHO says Arcturus is a “recombinant” of COVID subvariants BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75.

In addition to New York, XBB.1.16 has also been confirmed in California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and 19 other states.

“We will continue to see waves of infection,” Van Kerkhove said. “The peaks of those infections may not be as large as we saw before and likely will not be because we have population-level immunity that has increased around the world from vaccination and also from past infection.

“One of the things we are very concerned about is the potential for the virus to change, to become not only more transmissible but more severe.”