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A World Health Organization advisory group said Friday the omicron sublineages named BQ.1 and XBB do not appear to have immune escape mutations that warrant the designation of variants of concern, even as they are spreading around the world. “The two sublineages remain part of Omicron, which continues to be a variant of concern,” said a statement from the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on SARS0CoV-2 Virus Evolution following a meeting this week. The decision will be reassessed regularly to ensure there is no change that might warrant a new designation. As of Oct. 25, the XBB and XBB.1 lineages had been detected in 35 countries, according to a WHO weekly update. The two are BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 recombinants, which were found in 26 countries in last week’s report. The BQ.1 and its lineages have been found in 65 countries.
In the U.S., known cases of COVID are continuing to ease and now stand at their lowest level since mid-April, although the true tally is likely higher given how many people overall are testing at home, where the data are not being collected. The daily average for new cases stood at 37,412 on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker, down 3% from two weeks ago. The daily average for hospitalizations was up 1% at 27,002, while the daily average for deaths is down 5% to 358. Globally, the confirmed case tally rose above 629.6 million on Friday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins, while the death toll is above 6.58 million with the U.S. leading the world with 97.4 million cases and 1,070,064 deaths.

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