It’s official. After weeks of speculation about whether or not the U.S. would soon see a spike in COVID-19 infections due to the latest variant, BA.2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it is here.
In fact, according to the CDC, BA.2 (a subvariant of Omicron) now accounts for 23 percent of the new infections being reported and by all accounts it that its growth rate is 80 percent faster than that of Omicron and is projected to become the dominant strain of COVID-19 going forward.
The good news is that the vaccines have been found to be effective against BA.2 and that experts are not seeing an increase in severity of disease. What’s more, those who were previously infected by Omicron are not likely to be reinfected with BA.2.
What is all means is that restrictions are not likely to be reimposed and Americans can continue their return to normality and will not need to further adapt their behaviour.
Those unvaccinated, however, remain at risk as they are 97 times more likely to die compared to people who are vaccinated and boosted. While a third dose reduces the chance of severe illness, half of the adults eligible for boosters, have not received them.
Still, new infections are down 96% from the pandemic record of more than 800,000 on Jan. 15, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is projecting that cases will continue to decline through the spring and summer, with another surge possible this winter, when immunity has started to wane substantially.
“The pandemic phase of the virus is over in our opinion,” said Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at IHME. “We are moving into an endemic phase.”