New COVID Variants: Hospitals and Schools Are Taking Precaution

Ann Feeney
Updated August 31, 2023
Edited by
    Learn about the new COVID-19 variants in 2023 and how hospitals and schools are responding.
    High school students wearing masks in a classroomCredit: Getty Images
    • New COVID-19 variants in 2023 are spreading nationally.
    • After a period of decline in total cases, COVID-19 infections are increasing.
    • Many hospitals, schools, and other settings are resuming masking and other precautions.

    During most of 2023, COVID-19 infections had been declining. In the middle to late summer, however, new variations appeared and led to a higher number of reported infections. The number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased by 21.6%, and the number of deaths increased by 8.3% from August 6-12, 2023, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Learn about the new COVID variants of 2023 and how hospitals and schools are responding.

    New COVID Variants Are Being Monitored

    The two new COVID-19 variants in 2023 that are causing the most current concern are EG.5, making up approximately 20.6% of new cases, and FL.1.5.1, representing 13.3% of new infections, according to the CDC. Both variants share a mutation — F456L — that may be helping them spread rapidly.

    Some epidemiologists are concerned about BA.2.86, which is genetically very different from other prevalent new COVID variants in 2023. Since the number of cases is very low, it’s unclear whether the variant will cause more serious disease or be more resistant to current vaccines and acquired immunity.

    The CDC, World Health Organization, and other agencies are monitoring the situation closely and reporting new information as they receive it.

    Hospitals and Schools Respond by Requiring Masks

    Hospitals and schools are responding to the new COVID-19 variants of 2023 with vigilance and updates to policies as needed. Some hospitals are resuming precautions to keep the new COVID variants from gaining a footing in their community or causing surges. Auburn Community Hospital, in New York State, is requiring staff, visitors, and patients to wear masks, as are both Upstate Medical’s hospitals, also in New York. New Mexico’s Department of Health has reassembled its situational awareness team to prepare both for the new variants and for a possible increase of cases in the fall and winter.

    Some schools, too, are resuming precautions. For example, Rutgers is requiring vaccinations and masks and Morris Brown College, in Atlanta, is not only requiring masks but canceling large parties and gatherings and requiring temperature checks.

    Expect your schools or workplaces to continue monitoring the national and local spread and possibly require new precautions, including updated vaccinations when available, masking, and sterilization procedures.

    During this period of increased vigilance, be sure to safeguard your mental wellbeing. Keep a watchful but not alarmist eye on the data, keep anybody that you supervise aware of developments, and be ready to explain the situation and necessary precautions to patients and members of the public.