Omicron Subvariant Expected to Cause 'Uptick' in Cases

Genomics company says BA2 now accounts for 70% of new cases in some areas
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2022 3:17 PM CDT
Omicron Subvariant Expected to Cause 'Uptick' in Cases
"Thanks to the vaccine, I have only experienced mild symptom," Psaki said Tuesday after testing positive for a second time.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(Newser) – With restrictions being lifted across the country, America is doing its best to move on from the pandemic—but researchers warn that COVID hasn't moved on from America yet. BA2—a subvariant of omicron considered as different from the original omicron as the delta variant was from alpha—is making up an increasing proportion of new cases. Experts believe yet another surge in cases might not be far behind, the Washington Post reports. Genomics company Helix says BA2 now makes up around 70% of new cases in the US. It is believed to be around 30% more infectious than the original omicron, though there is no sign that it causes more severe disease.

Experts say the rise of BA2 is unlikely to lead to the return of restrictions. Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC's This Week that the subvariant will likely cause an "uptick" in cases, as seen in the UK and other European countries, but not a "surge," the AP reports. The UK "had the same situation as we’ve had now,” Fauci said. "They have BA2. They have a relaxation of some restrictions such as indoor masking and there’s a waning of immunity" both from vaccines and previous infections. Researchers are also keeping an eye on what's being called "deltacron," a version of COVID with genetic code from the delta and omicron variants, though it does not seem to be spreading widely.

Researchers say they expect the constantly mutating virus to keep throwing "curveballs" and that it's hard to predict the future course of the pandemic. "I think the bottom line is that we are living next to this volcano," Massachusetts General Hospital infectious-disease doctor Jacob Lemieux said Monday, per the Post. "And the volcano has not erupted recently, and that’s great. But we still don’t know when the volcano erupts, why the volcano erupts, and whether the next eruption is going to be bigger or less big than the last one." And public figures are still getting infected: The Hill reports that White House press secretary Jen Psaki called off a trip to Europe with President Biden Tuesday after testing positive. (Pfizer says a fourth vaccine dose will be necessary.)

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