Covid test with masks

July 7, 2022

The bad news: omicron subvariants have continued to spawn and spread even faster than the highly contagious omicron itself.

And we’ve only started the Greek alphabet from which coronavirus variant names are derived. Expect more to come—it’s the nature of viruses to mutate according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The good news: The alphabet soup of omicron spinoffs so far—B.1.1.529, BA.1.1, BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5—tend to be less severe than earlier COVID-19 variants, especially among the vaccinated, the CDC reports.

More good news: Moderna’s studies show its recently tweaked vaccine “significantly” protected against BA.4 and BA.5, the latest subvariants. The drug firm hopes to have newer boosters available before the next school year.

The CDC credits vaccines and boosters for lowering deaths and hospitalizations from omicron and SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Omicron itself has proven to be less lethal, with fewer incidents of severe illness, hospitalization or death than earlier variants. As for its subvariants, where do we stand?

BA.2.12.1 still reigns as of June 18, despite falling to 56% of cases from 62.7% a week earlier. BA.5 is fast rising to 23.5%, from 14.7% a week earlier, the CDC reports. It’s expected to overtake other subvariants within a few weeks.

Meanwhile, BA.4 rises to 11.4%, up from 8.1%, while BA.2 is falling behind and now accounts for just 9.1% of cases, down from 14.2% a week earlier and more than 50% in April.

As for once omnipresent omnicron spinoff BA.1 and COVID-19 versions delta and alpha? They’re history.

Now that many Americans use home tests, the results of which often are unreported, it’s harder to determine how many new cases exist. So, the rises and falls in reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths are better guides.

As of June 21, 2022 the national daily average was 96,218 for cases (down 15%), 29,934 for hospitalizations (up 2%) and 289 for deaths (down 11%).

Here at home, Harris County reported weekly totals as of June 21, 2022 of 222.45 cases (up 3%), 616 hospitalizations (up 4.5%) and 11 deaths (up 37.5%).

Any deaths and hospitalizations are too many. So, play it safe: Even if you’re tired of frequent handwashing, social distancing and indoors masking, keep them—and vaccines—in your arsenal.

Better to be safe than sick.

The information in this article is accurate as of July 6, 2022. It was clinically reviewed by Ardath Plauche.

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