New COVID variants BA.4 and BA.5 now make up more than HALF of US cases as experts fear tensions will fuel another wave of summer despite cases rising just 10% last week
- The BA.4 and BA.5 COVID-19 variants now combine for just over half of active cases in the US, according to the CDC
- Many experts fear its spread as it is believed they can evade natural immunity from a previous Covid infection
- An expert already fears it has gained a foothold in New York City, reversing the long trend of business decline in recent weeks
- The US has an average of 109,384 Covid infections each day, a 10% jump in the past week, and records nearly 400 daily deaths from the virus
New COVID-19 variants are starting to rise in the United States, with the much-feared BA.4 and BA.5 strains now accounting for about half of the active cases in the nation — according to the most recently available sequence data.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed Tuesday that in the week ending June 25, the strains converged for 52 percent of sequenced cases — combined to introduce the previously dominant BA 2.12.1 strain. to fetch.
Both species are believed to have originated in South Africa, where the original Omicron species was also first spotted. Unlike previous sub-variants of the highly infectious strains, they are believed to be able to evade the natural immunity afforded by prior Omicron infection.
This poses a major challenge to health officials, as many who have to be protected from infection for months can suddenly be unexpectedly reinfected and cause another wave.
However, the emergence of these variants has not yet had much influence on the case figures. The daily number of infections has risen by 10 percent to 109,384 per day, a margin it has remained within the past month. The US also records 398 deaths per day, a 14 percent increase week-over-week.
The BA.5 (dark green) and BA.4 (light green) together now make up more than half of active Covid cases in the US
Unlike previous virus strains, which have mainly moved east-west in the US, BA.4 and BA.5 are more common along the West Coast than the East Coast
The BA.5 variant now accounts for 36.6 percent of sequenced cases, according to the CDC, following only BA 2.12.1 (42 percent of sequenced cases) as the most common strain of the country. BA.4, which has many of the same properties as BA.5, accounts for 15.7 percent of cases.
Every sequence of cases in the US is some form of the Omicron variant, as the highly contagious strain that emerged in late 2021 has eradicated other versions of the virus.
The once dominant BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant now accounts for less than six percent of Covid cases in the US. The original BA.1 Omicron strain is no longer detected.
The tribes have alarmed health officials after early data from South Africa showed that a person’s natural immunity against a previous infection is not as effective against them as it was against other strains.
While their rise hasn’t impacted national case numbers yet, some experts are warning that more local outbreaks are on the way.
In New York City, Dr. Jay Varma, former public health adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio, warns that BA.5 could be the reason the number of cases in the nation’s largest city is no longer falling.
‘The decline in reported’ [COVID-19] cases in NYC has stopped. Reported cases are on a high plateau meaning the actual transmission is very high when you take the >20x undercount into account. This is probably the start of a BA.5 wave,” he said in a… tweet†
According to CDC data, BA.5 makes up nearly one in three cases in the New York and New Jersey area. BA.4 accounts for nearly 12 percent of cases, while BA 2.12.1 remains dominant.
Unlike the usual Covid strains, which take root along the east coast before spreading west over time, these two strains took root on the other side of the country first.
BA.5 accounts for 36 percent of the sequence of cases along the West Coast and 38 percent in the Pacific Northwest. It’s most common in the Dust Bowl, where it makes up 41 percent of consecutive cases, and in the Southwest, where it’s at 40 percent.
New strains that break the pandemic’s general rules — that once a person is infected, they can’t get the virus for a while — are changing the calculus of virus response.
Fearing the new strains, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to roll out newly formulated COVID-19 vaccines specifically targeting the Omicron variant.
By 19-2 votes, the Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products (VRBPAC) approved plans to roll out newly formulated vaccines this fall – citing the vaccine-resistant properties of the Omicron variant.
All currently available versions of the COVID-19 vaccines are formulated after the original Wuhan strain that emerged two years ago.
While they are still effective in preventing serious infection or death in most cases, the Omicron variant has been mutated in a way to prevent front-end protection from infection.
This change will allow both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to start distributing newly formulated shots that should be able to prevent infection of the Omicron variant – along with previous versions of the virus.
The FDA is expected to follow the lead of its advisors and grant emergency use approval for the new shots at some point this week.
After the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will likely also authorize the shots.
dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the FDA’s chief regulatory agency for vaccines, said Tuesday morning that he hoped the new injections would be available as early as October.