The new branches of BA.2’s family tree are BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. They grow about 25% faster than BA.2, especially in the midsection, according to a press release from the New York State Department of Health.
These subvariants are now responsible for more than 90% of infections in central New York and the neighboring Finger Lakes region.
Covid-19 cases are on the rise again in the United States as a whole, but they are increasing very rapidly in New York State. The average number of daily cases in the state has doubled in just over two weeks.
Daily reported cases are still only a fraction of what they were at the height of Omicron’s surge, but New York’s case rate is currently one of the highest in the country. Covid-19 hospitalizations have also begun to rise in the state, pushing some counties — especially those where the new subvariants have settled — into a “high community level of Covid-19” where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking.
This isn’t the first time these sub-variants have appeared. They have been reported in at least 50 US states and territories since January 2022, according to the GISAID.org website, a global effort to track the virus that causes Covid-19. BA 2.12 has also been spotted in the UK, India, Germany and Canada according to the database.
It is unclear if they could possibly exceed BA.2 in regions other than New York.
“Time will tell if we see them start to replace BA.2, the parent line, but right now I don’t think people need to panic,” said Dr. Wesley Long, associate professor of pathology. and genomic medicine. at Houston Methodist Hospital. “You can have regional variants that work really well in a region that kind of stays confined to that region,” said Long, who monitors variants as part of the ARTIC network.
The increased growth rate identified by New York State officials may not be an inherent property of these subvariants, but more likely something that happened “by chance”, a Long told CNN.
“I know it can be scary, but I think people should be reassured that basically the things we need to do to protect ourselves are the same things we’ve done in the past,” he said. -he declares.
Health officials in New York agree.
“We are alerting the public to two newly emerging and rapidly spreading subvariants of Omicron in upstate New York, so New Yorkers can act quickly,” said the Health Commissioner of the state, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, in the release.
“While these subvariants are new, the tools to combat them are not. These tools will work if each of us uses them: getting fully vaccinated and boosted, testing after exposure, symptoms or travel, considering wear a mask in public indoor spaces, and consult your healthcare provider about treatment if you test positive,” Bassett said.
According to data from the New York Department of Health, cases and hospitalizations are increasing in the state. Hospitalizations are increasing faster in unvaccinated people than in those who are fully vaccinated, and they remain relatively low.