A new COVID-19 wave known to be one of the strongest strains of the Omicron variant appears to have started in New York, one of NYC’s top epidemiologists in the city revealed.
Dr. Jay Varma, who was former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top public health advisor during the pandemic, said the infection rate appears to have stabilized at a high level rather than subsiding as summer starts to get into full swing.
Here’s what Varma stated in a Tweet:
“This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave.”
The decline of reported #COVID19 cases in NYC has stopped. Reported cases are at a high plateau, which means actual transmission is very high when you account for the >20x under-counting. This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave.
— Jay Varma (@DrJayVarma) June 28, 2022
The BA.5 subvariant, first seen in South Africa and then Portugal, is considered by some experts to be the “worst version” of omicron seen yet, given its apparent capacity to escape prior immunity and transmit more readily.
The Daily Beast reported:
Scientists have become increasingly worried about a couple of new strains of SARS-CoV-2. The subvariants of the now-dominant Omicron variant — BA.4 and BA.5 — “seem to partially dodge antibodies from past infection or vaccination, making them more transmissible than other forms of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are also some suggestions that the new subvariants have evolved to target the lungs — unlike Omicron, which usually resulted in a less dangerous infection of the upper respiratory tract.”
The new subvariants appear able to sneak past antibodies that have been built up either via vaccines or having been infected with COVID.
“The grandchildren of the basic Omicron variant that first appeared in the fall of 2021, BA.4 and BA.5 both feature a trio of major mutations to their spike protein, the part of the virus that helps it to grab onto and infect our cells. Eric Bortz, a University of Alaska-Anchorage virologist and public-health expert, described BA.4 and BA.5 as ‘immunologically distinct sublineages.’ In other words, they interact with our antibodies in surprising new ways.”
Yahoo News dropped some details:
For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, the Omicron strain that triggered last winter’s massive COVID wave (BA.1) is now extinct. In March, it was supplanted by the even more transmissible BA.2 … which was supplanted in May by the even more transmissible BA.2.12.1 … which is now being supplanted by the (you guessed it) even more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5.
Experts say BA.5 is the one to worry about: “The worst version of the virus that we’ve seen,” as Dr. Eric Topol, the founder of Scripps Research Translational Institute, recently put it. Together, the closely related BA.4 and BA.5 now account for the majority of new U.S. COVID cases, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but BA.5 (36.6%) is spreading a lot faster than BA.4 (15.7%). By early July, it will be the dominant strain in the U.S.
The World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Ghebreyesus, warned last month that the pandemic is “most certainly not over.”