As American began to pull herself up and out of the COVID-19 pandemic, medical experts found themselves somewhat relieved to see that some of the subsequent strains of the highly contagious virus appeared to be less and less powerful, signaling that the human race may very well be on the verge of normalcy.
Gone were the days of the dastardly “delta” variant, that not only spread quickly but appeared to bring with it some serious illness. We were on to “omicron”, a version of the virus that still made the rounds fairly swiftly, but whose symptoms were far less worrisome than previous infectious incarnations.
But now, just as the world seemed to be truly basking in the light at the end of the tunnel, a new warning arrives over a sub-variant of omicron that appears to defy conventional rules of immunity.
The BA.5 variant is now the most dominant strain of COVID-19 in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while it’s hard to get an exact count — given how many people are taking rapid tests at home — there are indications that both reinfections and hospitalizations are increasing.
For example: Some 31,000 people across the U.S. are currently hospitalized with the virus, with admissions up 4.5% compared to a week ago. And data from New York state shows that reinfections started trending upwards again in late June.
But there’s more:
Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says BA.5 is highly transmissible and manages to at least partially sidestep some of the immunity people may have from prior infections and vaccinations.Advertisement - story continues below
“Not only is it more infectious, but your prior immunity doesn’t count for as much as it used to,” he explains. “And that means that the old saw that, ‘I just had COVID a month ago, and so I have COVID immunity superpowers, I’m not going to get it again’ — that no longer holds.”
There is some good news, however: Experts believed that BA.5 is not as dangerous as some of the previous strains of the virus, at least in terms of the severity of the illness associated with it.