Omicron COVID subvariant BA.2 is dominant but not spiking in US

Omicron COVID subvariant BA.2 is dominant but not spiking in US

COVID-19 case numbers have remained stable in the US, even as the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant has spread to become the dominant form of the virus.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the new subvariant now accounts for around 72% of cases nationally, though figures show it has not driven a new surge like it has in European countries.

“Looking across the country, we see that 95% of counties are reporting low COVID-19 community levels, which represent over 97% of the US population,” Walensky said at a White House press briefing Tuesday.

While countries like France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have seen spikes, daily case counts in the US are the lowest they’ve been since last summer, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. In New York, case numbers have been relatively stable since February when the first Omicron wave ended.

Hospitalizations and deaths also aren’t trending significantly upward, in part because so many Americans came down with Omicron in December 2021 and January 2022.

COVID Test line
The US has not seen a BA.2 driven surge in cases like in some other countries.
Bai Xuefei/Xinhua via Getty Images

“The spread of Omicron in the winter made a protective factor against the severity of BA.2 variant,” Martine Hackett, the director of the Public Health Program at Hofstra University, told The Post Wednesday. “The majority of Americans are vaccinated, and contracting and recovering from Omicron gave many people the equivalent of a ‘booster shot’ of antibodies,” she said.

But experts cautioned that the stable COVID-19 tracking may be misleading, as more people turn to at-home tests.

“The more common testing — home tests — are not reported in terms of the statistics, so it’s possible we are having an increase in the number of positive COVID cases,” Hackett said. “We don’t have the same way of measuring it as we did a year ago.”

Others stressed that the quality of COVID-19 data differs from country to country.

Hospitalizations are not increasing significantly with the subvariant yet.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“It’s very misleading to look at disease data country to country because the way we gather data is very different,” Dr. Anthony Santella, an infectious disease professor at the University of New Haven, told The Post, in part because the US has “pretty much abandoned most of our mitigation measures.”

“People aren’t reporting cases and there’s less government intervention. The more you look for something the more you’re going to find it,” he added.

Santella said that ultimately, it might be too soon to tell what effect BA.2 will have.

COVID-19 home test
Some experts speculate that the low COVID-19 case numbers could be due to the increased use of at-home tests.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“The virus is still spreading in the community,” Santella said. “We’re going to continue to have new variants, that’s what these things do.”

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