U.S. on vigilant watch as BA.2 variant cases increase

Concerns grow over the BA.2 variant as it betters omicron in evading the immune system.

As the United States’ (U.S.) omicron infections decline, infectious disease experts are concerned about an even more contagious variant that could hamper the country hopes of getting back to normalcy. BA.2 is a highly contagious variant which originated from omicron, that appears to spread 30% more than omicron. The variant has spread from coast to coast accounting for 3.9% of all new infections nationally. Samuel Scarpino, the managing director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation noted, "If it doubles again to 8%, that means we're into the exponential growth phase and we may be staring at another wave of COVID-19 coming in the U.S." However, some experts believe that the new variant is unlikely to trigger a new surge in infections as many residents have immunity to the virus.

Nathan Grubaugh, associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public stated, "The most likely thing that's going to happen is that it might extend our tail, meaning it might slow down the decrease in cases. But it's probably not going to lead to a new wave of cases." Prior infection and vaccination do seem to protect residents against BA.2, however the variant appears to be better at evading the immune system than omicron. This adds to the many concerns that it could result in an increase in new infections. Scarpino added, "There is this lurking threat of BA.2. And we need to make sure this isn't going to be a problem before we roll back all the mandates, before we tell everybody that it's safe."