Another form of the Omicron subvariant BA.2 has become the dominant version among new U.S. coronavirus cases, according to federal estimates on Tuesday, a development experts had predicted in recent weeks.
There was no evidence yet that the new subvariant, known as BA.2.12.1, causes more serious disease than previous forms. BA.2.12.1 accounted for about 58 percent of all new U.S. cases, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending May 21.
As Americans approach their third Memorial Day weekend of the pandemic, the country is receiving an average of more than 100,000 new confirmed cases per day for the first time since February, according to a DailyExpertNews database. Newly reported cases have risen in almost every state, many infections are not counted in official statistics, so the actual number of infections may be higher. On Monday, an average of more than 24,700 people with the virus were hospitalized nationwide, a 28 percent increase in the past two weeks.
BA.2.12.1 is spreading faster than previous versions of Omicron, including the form that has skyrocketed US cases over the winter. The new version evolved from BA.2, which itself was more infectious than any variant that preceded it. New York state health officials said in mid-April that the Omicron subvariants, known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, accounted for more than 90 percent of new cases in central New York state.
In New York City, Omicron subvariants are fueling the fifth wave of virus cases, and officials put the city on “high Covid alert” last week after rising cases and hospitalizations reached levels that could put significant strain on the health care system. There was no sign of mask mandates coming back in New York City, even as federal health officials warned a large proportion of Americans lived in areas with “medium to high” levels of virus transmission.
And many Americans should consider wearing masks, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the new White House Covid-19 coordinator. “I feel strongly that people should do that in crowded indoor spaces, in places of high transmission,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. Last month, a federal judge in Florida abolished a mask mandate on public transportation and the country’s largest airlines stopped requiring masks on flights, ending a practice most airlines had been following for nearly two years.
dr. Jha also stressed the importance of people being vaccinated and encouraged. “What we know is that vaccines continue to provide a high level of protection against people who become seriously ill,” he said. In a sign of growing concern, the CDC said late last week that all people age 50 or older should receive a second booster shot if at least four months have passed since their first booster, reinforcing the recommendation.
Still, conditions appear to be stabilizing in some northeastern states that were among the first to see a spring wave in cases. While the numbers are still high, cases in New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have started to level off or decline.
BA.2, which still accounts for about 39 percent of new U.S. cases by the latest federal estimates, was first identified in the United States in December and grew to about 55 percent of new U.S. cases by the end of the year. . March.
Since genetic sequencing of the virus is being performed on only some of the test samples nationwide, the latest CDC estimates may be revised as more data comes in. That’s what happened in late December, when the agency had to significantly lower its estimate for the nationwide prevalence of the Omicron variant known as BA.1. Before that, the Delta variant had been dominant in the United States since early summer.
Last week, the United States officially surpassed the total of one million known deaths from Covid-19, according to a DailyExpertNews database. That’s the world’s highest confirmed death toll, and comes as the White House continues to call on Congress to approve stalled Covid aid for more treatments and vaccines.
Mitch Smith reporting contributed.