Officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed recently that the 10-million-strong county had finally begun to see a pattern that has already swept much of the United States: a rapid spike in the number of Los Angeles Covid cases linked to the more highly infectious Omicron BA.2 variant.
According to L.A. County, even though the current decoding sample represents a small percentage of total Los Angeles covid cases, between February 27 and March 5, 14.7 percent of sequenced cases in LA County were the BA.2 Omicron sub-lineage. This represents an increase from the previous week’s 6.4 percent of sequenced cases.
Barbara Ferrer, the county’s head of public health, defined the rises in BA.2 as “gradual growth” only last week. The situation appears to have altered. The rise in the variation from 6.4 percent to 14.7 percent represents a 129.68 percent rise in the variant generally. That would not be, by any stretch of the imagination, steady development.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci voiced worry that the quick increase in cases in Europe, which was followed by a significant increase in BA.2 sequences, may become the norm in the United States. For example, in the United Kingdom, the amount of Covid cases has surged from a previous low of 33,000 on February 25 to over 106,000 yesterday.
“We are closely tracking the information from Europe, as patterns seen in Britain, in particular, are historically seen in the U.S. a few weeks later,” said Ferrer last week.
“It’s challenging to tease out the role of BA.2 in the increasing case counts in Europe. BA.2 arrived in each go these countries at a different time, but the rising case counts are happening at a similar time across most of Europe, which might suggest that the circulation of BA.2 in these other countries is not the only factor in increasing case counts,” she continued. “The increasing case counts came shortly after rescinding many public health measures that were designed to limit Covid-19 transmission in many of these countries. And it also is happening at a time that may be influenced but the potential waning of protection offered by the vaccines.”
This shouldn’t matter whether Ferrer’s assessment is right, because practically all limitations in the United States have been abolished as well.
According to CDC data released Tuesday, the ratio of new Covid patients in the United States linked to BA.2 has increased from 23% in early March to 35% this week. Along the bright side, this indicates that the pace of rising has dropped from two 100% leaps in the earlier months to just under 50% in the last two weeks. Some communities have been impacted earlier — and harder.
BA.2 is responsible for 51 percent of all new cases over the most recent two-week period across a stretch of the area that encompasses Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey and has a population of nearly 41 million people as of Tuesday. It accounted for a bit more than 38% in the preceding 14 days.
According to the CDC, BA.2 has increased to 55 percent of all new infections in the northeastern area, which includes Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, which has a community of about 14 million people.
BA.2 has long taken over the world, with the variant responsible for over 85% of all newly sequenced infections, according to the WHO.
The important thing is that the Omicron strains (BA.2 and, most notably, the original BA.1) are far less virulent than Delta. However, as the United States discovered in early February this year, Omicron’s increased transmissibility can still result in a wave of deaths that equals or exceeds Delta’s simply due to the sheer number of infections. BA.2 is also considered to be 30% more transmissible than BA.1, hence it isn’t able to compete with the initial strain.