The BA.2 Update Everyone Should Hear Now
Scientists are warning the Omicron BA.2 subvariant has gained a definite foothold in the U.S., and people should expect increased transmissibility. "That's what the selection pressure on the virus is," says John P. Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Here is what the experts believe will happen next. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
We Are Still In a Pandemic
Virus experts are warning we are still very much in a pandemic, despite a federal judge overturning the CDC mask mandate for public transit. "Everybody wants this to be over. I get it, I do too," Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells Kate Bouldan on CNN's At This Hour. But we are still in the middle of a pandemic. We have 500 people still dying every day. If you do the math on that, that's, you know, 150-160,000 people maybe in a year—that's not endemic yet. We're not there."
Vaccination Rates Will Be Key
"We're entering a phase where increasing cases or waves may be very regional and it may depend a lot on vaccination levels in the community — and not just vaccination levels but timing of the vaccinations," says Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist in Texas. "How long ago were they? Did people get boosters? Because we know the immunity to the vaccine wanes a little bit over time."
Wear a Mask Indoors To Curb the Spread
Experts believe BA.2 will spread faster as people stop wearing masks indoors. "I think without a doubt that we are going to see a turnaround as people get out more and into the inside venues without masks," says Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci. "That's going to be certainly resulting in infections, even in people who are vaccinated."
A Surge Is Inevitable, Immunity Might Help
"If our pattern follows that of the U.K., which we usually do and are usually about three to four weeks behind them, they are having a significant upsurge in the number of cases," says Dr. Fauci. "We are hoping that if that does happen, the degree of background immunity that we have in the country … [means] we will not see an increase in severity in the sense of a concomitant increase significantly in the number of hospitalizations."
History Is Repeating Itself
The uptick in BA.2 cases—especially in the Northeast—reminds some doctors of the beginning of the pandemic. "Not only is BA.2 extraordinarily transmissible, but now, consistent with CDC guidelines, many people are going to crowded indoor events and outdoor events without wearing a mask and not social distancing," says Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. "This is reminiscent of the very beginning of COVID here in the United States. The Northeast led the rest of the country; they had the most infections for quite a period of time before the COVID virus spread to the rest of the county. So perhaps this is a little bit of history repeating itself."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.