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California could see a surge in coronavirus with the BA.2 subvariant

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Coronavirus cases are on the rise around the world, prompting some officials to warn that California could see a spike this spring due to the Omicron subvariant BA.2, though the strain’s cases in the state have been modest so far.

The World Health Organization recorded the first week by week increase in global coronavirus cases since late January, with cases up 8% from the previous week. As infections rise in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe, officials say they wouldn’t be surprised if new cases pick up again this spring in the US — and California.

It remains unclear whether a nationwide increase would be a wave or a deluge that could put a renewed strain on hospitals.

So far, coronavirus cases are still falling across California and in LA County, where case numbers continue to fall.

But even with the decline, officials are watching closely how the Omicron subvariant BA.2 – that’s 30% up 60% more contagious than the original Omicron variant – accounts for a growing percentage of new cases.

Nationwide, BA.2 represented a estimated According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23% of variants were analyzed between March 6 and March 12. In the previous week, the subvariant accounted for an estimated 14% of virus cases analyzed nationwide. BA.2 was most commonly found in the Northeast, where it accounted for nearly 40% of coronavirus cases; on the West Coast it accounted for about 25% of cases.

Kristian Andersen, microbiologist at Scripps Research Translational Institute projected on Twitter last week that in San Diego County in the near future almost all new coronavirus infections will be from the BA.2 subvariant.

Elsewhere, BA.2 growth has been more mixed. In LA County, BA.2 comprised 6.4% of the coronavirus samples analyzed between February 20 and February 26, the most recent Data available; a week earlier it was 5%, according to Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

In Northern California’s most populous county, Santa Clara County, most omicron cases discovered in the Palo Alto area belong to the BA.2 subvariant, but farther south, such as in Gilroy, it is less common.

“Interestingly – and this gives me hope – it doesn’t push the level up overall. I don’t know why, but it’s not like that,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Director and Health Officer, called last week. “But we’re watching it very, very closely.”

There’s no certainty that LA County will experience the kind of BA.2 flare-ups that many European countries are now witnessing, Ferrer said, but it remains entirely possible that it could become a dominant tribe.

BA.2 is probably not the only reason other countries are seeing sharp increases in coronavirus cases, she added. The leaps come as many public health measures that have lifted limited transmission of coronavirus and protections from vaccination and booster shots have waned over time.

It’s important that more is done to vaccinate and strengthen more people, especially those who are vulnerable, Ferrer said. She expressed concern about the lack of action to continue federal funding of vaccination, testing and treatment efforts for uninsured residents.

Ferrer said that as of Tuesday, due to the standoff in Washington, many of LA County’s community groups will no longer be reimbursed for vaccinating or testing uninsured individuals, a situation that is “instantly destroying our network.”

“I hope that our federal elected officials will quickly work with the White House to get a package through,” Ferrer said. “We must be prepared for a potential challenge in the future – and in the near future. We don’t want to be surprised; We need supply chains. We need people we have [personal protective equipment].”

Cody echoed Ferrer’s statements, warning that “COVID funding has essentially collapsed. This is breathtaking and shocking in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Myoung Cha, chief strategy officer at San Francisco-based Carbon Health and former head of strategic initiatives at Apple Health, warned in a number of tweets Saturday that the “BA.2 cycle has already started here and will be in full bloom in about two to three weeks” “with a much bigger boost than anyone saw coming”.

Possible signs of concern derived from The US has lower vaccination and booster rates than Europe, fewer tests and a longer period of fading immunity. Cha suggested BA.2 cases would hit the Northeast first, but predicted trends in the United States could be hampered by rapid home tests, the results of which are not reported to the government, unlike lab-based PCR tests, which are reported to officials.

Cha written down that Google search trends for cold symptoms “seem to be on the rise at the moment.”

“The irony is that the eagerness to return to normal and the lifting of social distancing measures will accelerate the surge beyond what would otherwise have been,” Cha wrote. “Reverting to pre-COVID behaviors may seem okay to many people, and the actual risk of BA.2 may be small. What is at stake is the impact on immunocompromised and older adults, who, along with our healthcare system, will be disproportionately affected by any further surge.”

dr Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, echoed Cha’s concerns. “Right now we’re mostly relying on hope as our defense should it rise in a big way. It remains possible that it won’t be significant – like in the UK and other countries in Europe – but I wouldn’t count on that,” Topol said tweeted.

In New York City, a increase in coronavirus cases may already have started.

However, it is important to note that BA.2 did not have the same impact in all countries. It has become dominant in Bangladesh, India and South Africa, but none of these countries have seen an overall rise in case numbers that the UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have seen, according to data shared by Topol.

It’s also possible that the US could see a milder effect from BA.2 than Europe or Asia Andy Slavitta former senior adviser on COVID-19 in the Biden administration.

In a series of tweets On Sunday, Slavitt said it was worth noting that the US version of Omicron, which dominated the nation this winter, was actually more contagious than the version that previously hit Europe. The version that hit Europe was BA.1, and the US subvariant was its descendant, BA.1.1.

In other words, a worse Omicron winter for the US compared to Europe could mean a less severe BA.2 spring, according to Slavitt’s reasoning.

“If that sounds too optimistic for some, it’s still too pessimistic for others,” says Slavitt wrote. “If you don’t want to count on luck, get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks if cases are increasing in your area and be wary of people with higher risk factors.”

California health officials continue to strongly recommend universal mask wearing in indoor public spaces.

According to Ferrer, there was only one handful of documented cases where someone infected with a previous Omicron subvariant has been reinfected with BA.2. “But it’s still early in the research cycle on this topic,” Ferrer said. “Should we see many more BA.2s in circulation, we all need to take extra precautions, especially when we are at high risk,” and urge those who are unvaccinated or have not received their booster shot to ” to seize this opportunity [to get their shots] before BA.2 becomes more widespread.”

dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, said last week he would not be surprised if the US saw an increase in cases in the coming weeks.

And although some experts have noted that hospital admissions have started to increase in parts of Europe, Fauci said the UK has yet to see stronger demand in intensive care units, “they are not yet seeing an increase in all-cause mortality”.

dr Ashish Jha, the new White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said in broadcast on television transmission Interviews last week that he doesn’t expect a big surge from BA.2 in the US, but said there could be a small one.

Pfizer BioNTech has applied for approval for a second booster shot for seniors, and Moderna has gone one step further by asking for approval for a second booster shot for all adults.

The CDC already recommends that people ages 12 and older with moderately or severely compromised immune systems who have received three doses of vaccine containing Pfizer or Moderna shots receive a fourth dose. For immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as their first shot and have already received a second dose of the vaccine, officials are now recommending an additional shot for a total three cans.

California is recording a coronavirus case rate of about 61 cases per week per 100,000 people — a rate not seen since July. LA County is reporting a rate of 79 — a level not seen since late November, just before the Omicron surge began, and a tiny fraction of the county’s peak rate of more than 3,000 in early January.

The latest figures are temptingly close to a target of fewer than 50 cases per week per 100,000 population, a level at which coronavirus transmission is considered moderate and no longer significant.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-21/california-could-see-coronavirus-uptick-with-ba-2-subvariant California could see a surge in coronavirus with the BA.2 subvariant

Dais Johnston

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