Suffolk County’s COVID risk has jumped back up to “high,” according to the CDC as the new highly contagious XBB.1.5 omicron variant spreads across the region and hospitalizations rise after the holidays.

Boston health officials are pleading with residents to take precautions amid the post-holiday surge, urging people to mask up and get boosted.

The CDC recently elevated Suffolk County’s COVID community risk level from medium to high. This comes following a spike in the Boston-area COVID wastewater levels and as reported virus cases climb and hospitalizations increase.

More than 70% of new COVID cases in New England are tied to the XBB.1.5 subvariant, according to the CDC’s latest variant tracker update.

“We are seeing a new rise in cases and a new variant that appears to be very transmissible,” said Matthew Fox, a Boston University School of Public Health epidemiology professor. “In light of this we need to fall back on the things we know work.

“Most important is making sure everyone is up to date on their boosters or if unvaccinated, get vaccinated,” Fox said. “Group settings should consider bringing back masking for the period of the surge. And as always we should be investing in good ventilation.”

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