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California could see coronavirus surge with BA.2 subvariant

Coronavirus cases are on the rise globally, prompting some officials to warn that California could see increases this spring due to the Omicron BA.2 subvariant, even though cases so far have been modest.

The World Health Organization recorded the first week-on-week increase in global coronavirus cases since late January, with cases rising 8% from the previous week. With infections on the rise in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe, officials say they wouldn’t be surprised if new cases spike again in the United States — and California — this spring.

What remains uncertain is whether a national increase would be a ripple or a deluge that could again strain hospitals.

So far, coronavirus cases continue to decline in California and LA County, where case rates continue to decline.

But even with the decline, officials are keeping a close eye on how the Omicron BA.2 subvariant — which is 30% to 60% more contagious than the original Omicron variant — is comprising a growing percentage of new cases.

Nationally, BA.2 accounted for about 23% of the variants analyzed between March 6 and March 12, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The previous week, the subvariant accounted for about 14% of virus cases analyzed nationwide. BA.2 was found most frequently in the Northeast, where it accounted for almost 40% of coronavirus cases; on the west coast, it accounted for about 25% of cases.

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

BA.2 growth was more mixed elsewhere. In LA County, BA.2 included 6.4% of coronavirus samples tested between Feb. 20 and Feb. 26, the most recent data available; a week earlier, it was 5%, according to public health director Barbara Ferrer.

In northern California’s most populous county, Santa Clara County, most Omicron cases detected in the Palo Alto area belong to the BA.2 subvariant, but it becomes less prevalent farther south. , as in Gilroy.

“Interestingly – and it gives me hope – it doesn’t drive levels up overall. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t,” Dr Sara Cody said last week. , Director of Public Health and Santa Clara County Health Officer, “But we are monitoring this very, very carefully.”

There’s no certainty that LA County will experience the kind of BA.2 outbreaks that many European countries are seeing now, Ferrer said, but it remains entirely possible that it will become a dominant strain.

BA.2 is probably not the only reason other countries are seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, she added; the jumps come as many public health measures that limited coronavirus transmission have been rolled back and protection from vaccinations and boosters has diminished over time.

It is essential that more is done to vaccinate and stimulate more people, especially those who are vulnerable, Ferrer said. She said she was alarmed by the lack of action to continue funding efforts to vaccinate, screen and treat uninsured residents.

Ferrer said that because of the standoff in Washington, many community groups in LA County will no longer be reimbursed for uninsured vaccinated or tested people starting Tuesday, a situation that “immediately destroys our network.”

“Hopefully soon our elected federal officials will work with the White House to get a package passed,” Ferrer said. “We have to be prepared for a potential challenge in the future – and in the near future. We don’t want to be caught off guard; we need to have supply chains in place; we need people to have [personal protective equipment].”

Cody echoed Ferrer’s statements, warning that “COVID funding has essentially collapsed. It’s 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 series of tweet 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 push than anyone saw coming.”

Potential signs of worry derived from the United States has lower vaccination and booster rates than Europe, fewer tests, and a longer period of declining immunity. Cha suggested that the BA.2 cases would hit the northeast first, but predicting trends in the United States could be hampered by rapid home tests, the results of which are not reported to the government, as opposed to laboratory PCR tests, which are reported to authorities.

Cha Noted Google search trends for cold symptoms “seem to be on the rise right now.”

“The irony is that the rush to get back to normal and the lifting of social distancing measures will accelerate the push beyond what would otherwise have been,” Cha wrote. “For many people, reverting to pre-COVID behaviors may seem okay and the actual risk of BA.2 may be low. What is at stake is the impact on immunocompromised people and the elderly who will be disproportionately affected by another surge with our healthcare system.

Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, echoed Cha’s concerns. “At the moment we are relying mainly on hope as a defence, when it should be reinforced on a large scale. It remains possible that it will not be substantial – as in the UK and other countries in Europe — but I wouldn’t count on it,” Topol said. tweeted.

In New York, a decline in coronavirus cases may have already begun.

It is important to note, however, that BA.2 did not have the same effect on all countries. It has become dominant in Bangladesh, India and South Africa, but none of those countries have seen the kind of jump in case rates that Britain, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have. eu, according to data shared by Topol.

It’s also possible that the U.S. will see a milder effect from BA.2 than Europe or Asia, depending on Andy Slavitformer senior adviser on COVID-19 to the Biden administration.

In a series of tweet On Sunday, Slavitt said it’s worth noting that the American version of Omicron that dominated the country this winter was actually more contagious than the version that hit Europe earlier. The version that hit Europe was BA.1, and the American sub-variant was its descendant, BA.1.1.

In other words, a more unpleasant 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,” Slavitt said. wrote. “If you don’t want to rely on luck, get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks when cases spike near you, and watch out for people with higher risk factors.”

California health authorities continue to strongly recommend universal mask wearing in indoor public places.

According to Ferrer, there have only been a handful of documented cases in which someone infected with an earlier Omicron subvariant has been reinfected with BA.2. “But it’s early in the research cycle on this,” Ferrer said. “If we start to see a lot more BA.2s circulating, we all need to take extra precautions, especially if we are at high risk,” and urge those who have not been vaccinated or who have not received their boosters to “grasp this opportunity”. [to get their shots] before BA.2 started circulating more widely.

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

And while some experts have noted that hospitalizations have started to rise in parts of Europe, Fauci said Britain has yet to detect higher demand among intensive care units, “and that ‘they found no increase in all-cause mortality.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s new COVID-19 response coordinator, said in interviews last week that he did not expect a large increase in the US from BA.2, but said there might be a small one.

Pfizer and BioNTech requested approval for a second booster for seniors, and Moderna went further and requested approval for a second booster for all adults.

The CDC already recommends that people 12 and older with moderate or severely compromised immune systems who have received three doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines receive a fourth dose. For immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as their first inoculation and who have already received a second dose of the vaccine, authorities now recommend an additional injection, for a total of three doses.

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

The latest levels are extremely close to a target of less than 50 cases per week per 100,000 population, a level by which coronavirus transmission is considered moderate and no longer substantial.




Los Angeles Times

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