The U.S. has relaxed COVID-19 health and safety mandates due to the decline in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the past month. As the Omicron wave died down, scientists have become optimistic that the end of the pandemic is near and COVID-19 will transition to endemicity and be just like any other respiratory disease by the end of this year.
But it seems that COVID-19 is making a comeback with a new variant, BA.2. A subvariant of Omicron, BA.2 introduced itself at the end of January 2022 with half of U.S. states registering a handful of cases. Fast forward to two months later, BA.2’s impact is becoming more evident.
BA.2 Could Start a New Surge
COVID-19 cases have significantly died down, with America reporting a little over 32,000 cases per day. This is compared to daily case rates in January, which topped at 810,000 daily infections. As of the final week of March, BA.2 accounts for 35% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
While the percentage of infections associated with BA.2 is still relatively low, CDC director Rochelle Walensky says there are signs of a new COVID-19 wave. In other countries, such as New England, the BA.2 variant is accounting for over 73% of COVID-19 cases, which is telling the U.S. that another surge is coming.
The CDC expects the BA.2 subvariant to be dominant in the country soon, which calls for the return of health and safety measures such as mask-wearing, vaccination, and lockdowns.
What to Expect With BA.2
The BA.2 strain is a subvariant of Omicron, sharing similar characteristics in terms of symptoms and transmissibility. While there is no evidence that BA.2 can cause more severe illnesses, scientists have confirmed that it is 30% more transmissible than its mother strain.
According to medical epidemiologist Dr. John Brooks, while cases of BA.2 are expected to rise, hospitalizations and fatalities aren’t likely to increase. Vaccinated and boosted individuals, as well as those who have been previously infected with COVID-19, have a level of immunity that can protect against severe diseases after BA.2 infections.
The CDC reported that about 95% of Americans are adequately protected against Omicron and its subvariant, BA.2, owing to vaccines, boosters, and prior infection. The remaining 5% without immune protection are likely to be the most affected by the new surge.
Preparing for the BA.2 Surge
BA.2 is not yet causing alarm in the U.S., but the government, health authorities, and citizens need to be prepared for it. With cases in surrounding countries rising, there are signs that the U.S. may be facing a new wave of infections.
As early as now, get vaccinated or if eligible, boosted. These can go a long way in increasing immune protection and preventing severe illness in case of BA.2 infection. Vaccines are readily available, and all it takes is the initiative to get vaccinated to protect yourself from any new wave COVID-19 throws at us.