The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recognizing another form of the Omicron variant as part of its weekly COVID-19 genomic surveillance, potentially hinting at another threat to rise in America after the BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant failed to make much impact on daily case totals.
For the first time, the CDC included the BA.2.12.1 variant on its NOWCAST, with the strain making up 19 percent of sequenced cases in America. The sub-strain falls within the BA.2 lineage – which is in itself a sub-strain of the Omicron variant.
Little is known about this version of the virus, though it is believed to have a 27 percent growth advantage over the original version of BA.2, though there is no evidence that it is more severe than its predecessor.
This is now the third different version of Omicron – which in total makes up 100 percent of sequenced cases in the U.S. – to be categorized separately by health officials, a phenomenon that did not occur with previous versions of the virus.
While the arrival of the unnamed BA.2.12.1 does pose a new threat, Covid is starting to recede nationwide, and it is possible the full return to ‘normal’ has arrived in the U.S.
On Monday, a federal court threw out a mask mandate on forms of public transportation, the last remaining Covid restriction a vast majority of Americans face.
According to the most recent update from the CDC, less than one percent of counties in the are U.S. considered to be of ‘high’ Covid risk.
The BA.2.12.1 strain (red) of Omicron has now been recognized as a separate threat by the CDC, making up 19% of sequenced COVID-19 cases per the agency’s most recent update
BA.2.12.1 (red) makes up more than half of Covid cases in the New York and New Jersey region, the only place where it has over taken the stealth variant as the nation’s dominant strain. It was also first detected in New York last week
Only 14 U.S. counties are still considered to be an area of ‘high’ Covid risk, per CDC data, with nearly all being in New York – where the new strain was initially detected
The BA.2.12.1 variant was first detected by officials in New York last week. The CDC reports that the strain is now dominant in the region – which also includes neighboring New Jersey – making up 52.3 percent of cases.
Since the discovery of the variant, Covid cases in New York have begun to grow, recording a 66 percent jump of the past two weeks.
New York City is recording increases as well, with daily case figures up nearly 50 percent over the last 14 days.
The CDC designated region that includes New Jersey and New York is the only one in America to have BA.2.12.1 be the dominant strain.
Other areas where the new Omicron strain has made grounds include the mid-Atlantic, which includes Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, where it accounts for 23 percent of sequenced cases. It also makes up around 20 percent of cases in New England and in the Deep South.
Regions outside of the east coast are recording significantly lower levels of the variant, per the CDC data.
The BA.2 stealth variant remains the dominant strain across the U.S., with the CDC NOWCAST reporting that it still makes up around 74 percent of cases.
The original BA.1 version of the variant that took over the world over winter now makes up only six percent of cases.
All other strains, including the Delta variant, have been virtually snuffed out by the highly-infectious Omicron variant.
The places where BA.2.12.1 are spreading also remain the lone places in America that the CDC considers to have a higher Covid risk.
Only 14 counties in the U.S. – less than 0.5 percent of America – are considered to be of ‘high’ Covid risk. 13 of the counties are in New York, with the remaining one in Kansas.
There is no information on whether the new strain, which is dominant in New York, is responsible for the higher transmission risk.
Earlier this year, the CDC revised its Covid risk calculations to value hospitalization rates over all else, moving on from previous metrics where only daily infection figures were used.
Hospitalization rates are at one of their lowest points during the pandemic so far, explaining the change in CDC risk, with 14,653 people Covid-positive people receiving treatment daily – a six percent drop over the past two weeks.
Covid case and death figure are continuing their fall as well, as America seems to have dodged the BA.2 surge suffered across Europe.
America is currently averaging 35,207 Covid cases per day, a nine percent drop over the past week, falling below the 40,000 mark once again after eclipsing that mark for the first time since early March last week.
Deaths are continuing to crash as well. On average, 443 Americans are dying from the virus every day, a 19 percent decrease over the last seven days.