2 New Covid Variants are Spreading in New York

As the Easter weekend approaches, state health care officials are worried about the two new Omicron variants spreading fast in New York. Known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, these new versions of Covid-19 could be responsible for the rise in cases in the United States and New York, as they comprise 90% of all the cases detected in the state.  

These two sub variants grow 25% faster than BA2, the Omicron variant that was up until now the most contagious variant known. However, it still remains unclear whether this faster rate of contagiousness is intrinsic to the variants themselves or a result of a mutation to dodge the body’s immunity defenses. 

BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 have been detected in 40 other countries and in over 30 other states, and they were responsible for over 70% of all new Covid infections in central New York during March. This number has risen to 90% in just two weeks, which is why health care professionals advise the population to be cautious during Easter gatherings.   

With the increase of rapid testing at home, official numbers may remain significantly lower than the real number of infections. And although these figures may seem insignificant compared to the numbers registered during the winter, health care authorities advise not to stop precautions.  

Last Tuesday, the U.S. reported over 31,000 new cases a day, 8% more than two weeks earlier. However, reported cases may be an undercount of the virus’s true spread, since access to home testing has increased and the results of such tests are often not officially reported.

With an apparently decreasing official number of reports, airlines and the lodging sector have been pushing to get the mask rule and testing requirements overturned. Last week, Airlines for America, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Travel Association wrote a letter to Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, arguing how Covid measures are no longer effective, and they are hurtful towards economy of the country. 

However, Dr. Jha remains firm against removing preventative measures. As he said in an interview with NBC 10 news, “The pandemic is not over” and he believes that masking and testing rules will provide the C.D.C. the additional time required to properly assess the new Omicron variants. “There’s no question in my mind that masks are an important public health tool that we use to keep infection numbers lower,” Jha stated. 

He also emphasized on the importance of self-isolation, when in direct contact with an infected person or after positive testing results. “You got to isolate for those five days, no question about it, that’s the most important period. On day six through ten, some people may still be contagious. Many are not. You’re much less contagious and the CDC guidance is after day five, you can return, but you’ve got to wear a high-quality mask if you’re around others,” said Jha.

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