Everyone is scrutinizing the new stealth offshoot of the highly contagious Omicron variant. For now, it has a simple name — BA.2. And BA.2 is thought to be 30 percent more contagious than Omicron.
But all that doesn’t mean that this strain will produce a surge like we saw last summer with Delta or earlier this year with Omicron.
Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration, thinks we’ll see a bump in cases but not hospitalizations. He made the prediction during an interview Friday on CNBC’s Squawk Box.
‘I don’t think this is going to be another major wave of infection,” Gottlieb said. “But we’re probably going to go up from here before we see a decline,’ he said.
BA.2 already is showing up in New York City, which was ground zero for the initial Covid strain as well as Omicron.
The New York Health Department reported that 100 percent of Covid samples in New York tested from Feb. 27 through March 5 were Omicron. But we can break that number down. Omicron BA.1 was in 82.7 percent while BA.2 measured at 17.3 percent.
New York discovered its first Covid case of Omicron on Dec. 2. It proved to be the bellwether for the United States. It peaked in mid-January, then started dramatically receding in February and into March. As of Thursday, the United States had 35,842 new cases. That’s a 10,000 drop from this time a week ago. For context, Omicron hit 933,000 positives Jan. 14.
Scientists believe BA.2 will become the dominant strain of Covid worldwide.
Vaccines still offer good protection against hospitalization with either BA.1 or BA.2. However, most monoclonal antibody treatments don’t work on either Omicron variant. There is a positive to it all. So many Americans caught Omicron, they have some degree of natural immunity to BA.2.
The World Health Organization said that cases show the stealth variant is no more severe than the original Omicron. Scientists have had time to study cases in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark. The WHO said there was “no reported difference in severity” for the variants of concern.
Anthony Fauci, who heads the NIAID, said Americans need to keep their masks handy just in case BA.2 positives start to spread. Most of the United States has dropped the use of masks.
‘If in fact we do see a turnaround and a resurgence,” Fauci told CNN, “We have to be able to pivot and go back to any degree of mitigation that is commensurate with what the situation is.”
‘We can’t just say, ‘we’re done, we’re going to move on,’ ” Fauci said. “We’ve got to be able to be flexible because we’re dealing with a dynamic situation.”
Gottlieb has a more positive outlook. He told CNBC: “What we know is that the immunity that you get from omicron is very protective against this BA.2 variant.
“There’s no reason to believe the contours of this wave will be very different than BA.1 and probably less so because we have so much Omicron immunity.”