Two new COVID-19 variants — BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 — are spreading throughout New York City right now, leading to a rise in cases. But there are ways to keep yourself safe.

Driving the news: The New York State Department of Public Health said Wednesday that these new highly-contagious variants — which are variants of the subvariant (BA.2) of the omicron variant — are responsible for rising COVID-19 cases in the United States.

  • In March, the BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 variants had 70% prevalence in Central New York and more than 20% prevalence in the nearby Finger Lakes region, the department said.
  • Data for April suggests that prevalence in Central New York is closer to 90%.

Worth noting: One of the new subvariants reportedly has a mutation that can help it evade immunity, per The New York Times.

  • It’s unclear if that applies to natural immunity, immunity from vaccination or both.

Stay safe: Kirsten St. George, a virologist for New York state who helped lead the research, told The New York Times that there are ways to keep yourself safe.

  • “It’s just a reminder that we’re not out of the woods with regard to this virus, and people should continue to take precautions and to get fully vaccinated if they haven’t completed their course,” she said.
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The bigger picture: These two new omicron variant subvariants have emerged as the world is looking at other sublineages of omicron, too.

  • The World Health Organization said Monday that it plans to monitor dozens of cases linked to new omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which have been spreading throughout much of the world already.
  • There’s also the omicron XE variant — which combines the original omicron strain with the omicron subvariant BA.2 — that has recently made its way to Japan, as I wrote for the Deseret News.
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The bottom line: This is a clear sign of what’s happening with the coronavirus right now. More sublineages of the highly-contagious omicron variant are emerging quickly, putting more people at risk for illness.

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