A more contagious subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is raging across the U.S., now accounting for more than a third of all COVID-19 infections, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on former President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force and is now President Biden’s chief medical adviser on COVID-19, doesn’t expect a huge surge in cases.
“The bottom line is we’ll likely see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K.,” Fauci said on ABC. “Hopefully we won’t see a surge — I don’t think we will.”
Several studies have found that BA.2 is even more transmissible than an earlier variant, BA.1, but still most scientists are not concerned.
“In early 2022, BA.2 was growing more common in a number of countries,” The New York Times recently reported. “By February, it had become dominant worldwide, driving down the once-dominant BA.1. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that BA.2 jumped to 11% in early March from 1% in early February. It could soon become dominant in this country as well.”
“But that does not mean that Americans are riding a new BA.2 wave that is infecting a lot of new people. As BA.2 became more common in the United States, the total number of new cases fell by about 95%. Worldwide, the number of daily new cases had fallen to half of what they were at their peak in late January,” The Times reported.
Others have echoed that sentiment.
“Cases of this particular omicron subvariant, one of a few, keep popping up and have roughly doubled the past few weeks in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data estimates,” the Miami Herald reported last Wednesday. “It now makes up 11.6% of overall virus cases as of March 5 since it began doubling as of Feb. 5.”
“All in all, I think we’re really gonna be OK and I don’t think BA.2 is gonna be problematic like omicron,” said Dr. Thomas Russo, an infectious disease doctor and professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Buffalo, according to the Herald.
“In some parts of the world, the BA.2 subvariant has replaced the original omicron strain, known as BA.1, as the most dominant even as global cases go down, the World Health Organization said in a March 8 statement,” the report said.
The new variant has been detected in every U.S. state, according to a recent report. The variant, which didn’t get its own Greek letter name, is more contagious than its brother, but vaccines are effective against it, scientists say.
The subvariant was first found in Europe in January and has already spread across the world “becoming the leading strain behind new coronavirus infections in at least 18 countries,” the report by Fortune magazine said.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.