The omicron XE variant continues to spread throughout the United States as restrictions loosen and mask mandates drop off.
What to know: The XE variant was dubbed a “Frankenstein” variant by Forbes writer Bruce Lee because it is a recombinant variant that merges the original omicron variant with the BA.2 variant, a subvariant of the original omicron.
The new omicron XE COVID-19 variant recently made its way to Japan after already spreading through the United Kingdom.
- The omicron XE variant emerged in people who had been infected with two omicron variant strains — like the original strain and the BA.2 variant — at the same time.
- Recombinants like these are not rare in the pandemic. Another example is the “deltacron” variant, which combines the delta variant and the omicron variants together into one.
- There’s a chance more of these variants will emerge, too.
Of note: “One thing’s for sure, new recombinants and new variants in general of the SARS-CoV-2 will continue to emerge like bad reality TV shows,” per Forbes.
The bigger picture: The COVID-19 variant has hit somewhat of a lull period in the United States, even though new variants have emerged.
- The BA.2 variant has spread quickly and fast, but it has done little to worry Americans overall.
- The White House and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the air travel mask mandate will not be enforced after a federal judge in Florida overturned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate for public transit and airplanes.
The change was met with both celebration and concern, per the Associated Press, showing that there’s still debate over how worried people should be about the pandemic.
The bottom line: “The emergence of the XE is a frank reminder that the pandemic is not over yet,” according to Forbes. “And that you should do what you should have been doing all along, maintaining appropriate Covid-19 precautions.”