CBS News

The new COVID-19 variant that scientists call JN.1 now makes up about 44.1% of COVID-19 cases across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Friday, marking another week of the fast-spreading variant’s steep rise in the U.S.

The increase is more than two times larger than the 21.3% that the CDC now estimates the strain made up of infections for the week ending Dec. 9, after Thanksgiving.

Among regions with enough data reported from testing labs to produce these latest projections, the CDC estimates that JN.1’s prevalence is largest in the Northeast region spanning New Jersey and New York, where the strain is 56.9% of cases in those states.

“JN.1’s continued growth suggests that the variant is either more transmissible or better at evading our immune systems than other circulating variants. It is too early to know whether or to what extent JN.1 will cause an increase in infections or hospitalizations,” the CDC said Friday.

These new estimates come as other countries have also tracked a rapid ascent in JN.1’s prevalence across recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to step up the strain’s classification to “variant of interest” on Tuesday — its second highest tier.

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