According to new data released this week, a new coronavirus variant, first detected two months ago, is spreading across the United States and spreading more quickly in the Northeast and West.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.2 variant appears to be on its way to becoming the dominant coronavirus strain, with its numbers roughly doubling every week for the past month.
The World Health Organization classifies BA.2 as a “sub-lineage” of the highly transmissible omicron variant. It’s a different strain of omicron than BA.1, the virus that wreaked havoc in the Northeast late last year.
It has a different genetic sequence than BA.1 and was originally known as the “stealth variant” because it was difficult to detect. Infections caused by the BA.2 strain of omicron are common all over the world. According to the CDC, BA.2 was responsible for nearly a quarter (23.1%) of cases in the United States for the week ending March 12. This is up from 14.2 percent the week before last.
According to the CDC, BA.2 accounted for 39 percent of cases in New Jersey and New York in the week ending March 12, up from 25.4 percent the previous week. (The CDC includes Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the COVID-19 case breakdown for that region.)
According to the CDC, BA.2 was responsible for 38.6 percent of cases in the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), up from 24 percent the week before. BA.2 is responsible for 27.7% of cases in the West, which includes Arizona, California, and Nevada, up from 17.1% the week before. According to the CDC, BA.2 accounted for 26.2 percent of cases in the upper West, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, up from 16 percent previously.
In recent weeks, BA.2 cases have increased in the rest of the United States, accounting for 12 percent to 20% of cases in other states for the week ending March 12.
According to the World Health Organization, studies have shown that BA.2 is “inherently more transmissible” than omicron BA.1.
What is unknown is whether BA.2 causes severe illness in the same way that omicron BA.1 did, which caused a rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for a month before rapidly declining. While omicron BA.1 was considered milder than the virus’ original strain and the delta variant, it resulted in an increase in COVID-19 deaths in the United States: 60,000 in January 2022, more than double the number of deaths in November, according to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Stephanie Silvera, an infectious disease specialist at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey, said, “We often don’t know until it’s too late.” “That has been the issue with dealing with these surges. One of the last impacts we see is death.”
So far, BA.2 doesn’t appear to be having much of an effect. Public health officials, on the other hand, say they’re keeping a close eye on the virus’s spread. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to decline on a daily basis, hovering around levels last seen in July before the delta variant surge.
In March, daily reported deaths ranged from 1,685 to 2,076 after months of 3,000 or more per day in January and February.
As a result of the declining metrics, state mask mandates have been lifted – in schools and public buildings – in what officials consider a return to normalcy.
Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said on Thursday that he expects cases in the state to rise as a result of outbreaks in Asia and Europe. However, he stated that he does not expect “universal statewide mandated protective measures” to be reinstated. According to British scientists, vaccines against BA.2 are just as effective as those against omicron BA.1. That is, the vaccines may not prevent infection, but they do a good job of preventing serious illness.
According to the World Health Organization, if you were infected with omicron BA.1, you may have good protection against BA.2.