EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is advising residents to continue practicing safety protocols as a new COVID-19 Omicron Variant XBB.1.5 has been identified in our community.

Omicron Variant XBB.1.5 is currently the country’s fastest-spreading coronavirus subvariant.

Health officials remind 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.

“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,” said City-County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza. “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 be cautious for us and our community.”

The period of infectiousness for XBB.1.5 is very 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 may take 5 days to develop symptoms, stressing the importance of getting the vaccine or booster.

Regardless of the variant, a surge in cases can impact healthcare resources. Even if a variant causes less severe disease in general, an increase in the total number of cases could cause an increase in hospitalizations, put more strain on healthcare resources, and potentially lead to more deaths.

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, Bivalent COVID-19 Moderna booster and 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
  • 7380 Remcon
  • 9566 Railroad
  • 220 S. Stanton (Corner of First and Stanton)

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, visit EPCovidVaccine.com or call (915) 212-COVID (915-212-6843).