This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.

Updated Booster Protects Against Dominant COVID-19 Strain: Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 now makes up at least 40% of all reported COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. El Paso’s last COVID report also shows cases are on the rise, with 130 people currently hospitalized. However, there is an expected undercount in cases as not all people who are testing positive at home are reporting their results to the city, officials said. “The good news is the bivalent booster does offer protection against the XBB.1.5 and can prevent infection and hospitalization,” said Daniel Acosta, director of Immunize El Paso, in a press release. Less than a quarter of eligible Americans have gotten the bivalent booster shot, according to the CDC. Here’s how to order free COVID-19 tests online or get the updated booster shot.

NSF Awards UTEP $5 million: The National Science Foundation has awarded a $5 million grant to the University of Texas at El Paso to partially finance the education of 26 undergraduate computer science students focused on data science and cybersecurity. UTEP’s Department of Computer Science will use part of the grant from the NSF’s Scholarships for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program to fund 15 additional scholarships for El Paso Community College students who will transfer to the university to complete their computer science degrees. This is the second time that the NSF awarded this grant to UTEP. The first was in 2016.

New Texas Secretary of State: Texas Sen. Jane Nelson was officially named as the new Secretary of State for Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday. The secretary of state serves as the chief elections officer for Texas and is the repository for official business and commercial records required to be filed with the office. Nelson, who represents Denton, Texas, has been in the senate since 1992. She replaces John Scott, who resigned in December.