The ommicron coronavirus subvariant BA.5 is rampantly rampant in the US, now accounting for an estimated 78 percent of the country’s cases — which are also increasing.
The breakneck acquisition is astonishing, with BA.5 showing a significant growth advantage over all other lines and sublines. In the US, that also seems to include BA.4, which shares the same spike protein mutations, but has different mutations elsewhere in its genome.
At the beginning of June, BA.5 accounted for less than 10 percent of cases, while BA.4 lagged slightly, accounting for an estimated 6.4 percent. Since then, BA.5 has risen to 78 percent, while BA.4 peaked at 14.4 percent in early July and is now down to 12.8 percent.
Globally, BA.4 and BA.5 are now jointly dominant, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. Based on genetic data collected in an international repository, BA.4/5 is responsible for 69 percent of all SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequences worldwide.
Worldwide, the number of cases has increased by 27 percent in the past two weeks and the number of deaths by 34 percent, according to data logging from The New York Times. Similarly, in the US, the number of cases has increased by 20 percent, the number of hospitalizations has increased by 20 percent, the number of intensive care units (ICU) has increased by 19 percent, and the number of deaths has also increased by 9 percent.
“Still in this”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SARS-CoV-2 transmission levels are high or significant in more than 97 percent of U.S. counties. Based on the agency’s “COVID-19 Community Levels” statistic, which explains hospital bed availability and admissions and the number of cases, approximately 75 percent of U.S. counties are at high or intermediate levels. Specifically, just over 35 percent of counties rely on high-levels, at which point the CDC recommends masking in public indoor public settings.
But the number of cases — in the US and elsewhere — is likely to be a significant undercount, as many government testing efforts have stalled and many people are now testing at home and not reporting their results.
In a variant update video published Tuesday, Maria Van Kerkhove, the COVID-19 technical leader for the World Health Organization, emphasized that data is becoming increasingly limited, despite the threat of SARS-CoV-2 remaining high.
“Last week, more than 5.7 million cases were reported to the WHO and those are the cases we know of,” Van Kerkhove said. “And that’s an underestimation, because surveillance activities worldwide have declined dramatically, including testing.”
With high transmission, the virus can still spread to the many unvaccinated people worldwide and evolve into new variants.
“You have to remember that there are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people who have not yet received a full vaccination course, two and a half years into this pandemic, and they are at increased risk of serious illness and death,” said Van Kerkhove. .
People should do everything they can to reduce the spread, she added. That means “masks, distancing, ventilating, getting vaccinated, spending more time outdoors than indoors. Work from home if you’re not feeling well. It’s not just about you… we’re still in this pandemic.”