LUBBOCK, Texas — Officials from University Medical Center and Covenant Health System said on Monday that they are seeing a slight increase in COVID hospitalizations this month compared with last month. The City of Lubbock Health Department said they expect more hospitalizations in the coming weeks with the nationwide rise of XBB.1.5 cases.

Last month, Covenant Health System’s 7-day average was 22 COVID hospitalizations. In January, it is seeing an average of 34.

UMC said it has 19 patients hospitalized with COVID on Monday compared with 10 last month. 69% of those individuals are unvaccinated, officials said.

“We haven’t seen a large jump in the number of COVID cases and we’ve had around 20 individuals in the hospital at any time over the last month,” said City of Lubbock Public Health Director Katherine Wells. “This has been typical with all of the new COVID variants. We tend to see the increases in cases on both coasts, and then it slowly moves in toward the center of the country.”

The World Health Organization announced the XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible Omicron strain yet.

“The concern, though, is that the reports from both coasts are showing an increase in the number of people hospitalized. So, we do want to pay attention and keep in close communication with our hospitals to see whether or not they’re seeing that rise,” Wells explained.

The best thing individuals can do to avoid severe illness, the Lubbock Health Department encouraged, “is for individuals, especially those over the age of 60 or 65, to get that latest booster of the vaccine.”

Wells said the booster is made to help fight the Omicron variant.

“They’re showing that that is preventing severe hospitalization or severe disease. So, we are still encouraging those who have not gotten that booster to make an appointment. It’s available in the Health Department. It’s also available at many of our local pharmacies,” she shared.

If you do get sick, Wells suggested, visit your doctor.

“The antiviral medication is still showing to be effective. So, talk to your doctor about possible treatments and they might be able to write you a prescription.”

The Health Department added that it offers free testing and vaccinations, and encouraged anyone interested to make an appointment.

Additionally, every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to four free at-home tests.