The covid virus is continually changing, and a recent version is rapidly climbing the charts. Even though it appeared only in September, the variant known as JN.1, a descendant of omicron, is rapidly spreading, representing between 39% to half of the cases, according to pre-holiday stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lab data indicates that the updated vaccines, as well as existing covid rapid tests and medical treatments, are effective with this latest iteration. More good news is that it “does not appear to pose additional risks to public health beyond that of other recent variants,” according to the CDC. Even so, new covid hospitalizations — 34,798 for the week that ended December 30 — are trending upward, although rates are still substantially lower than last December’s tally. It’s early in the season, though. Levels of virus in wastewater — one indicator of how infections are spreading — are “very high,” exceeding the levels seen this time last year.

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