SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – A sense of normal has returned on this lead up to the Fourth of July. People are traveling and getting together, but infectious disease specialists say there is nothing normal about this. All nine Bay Area counties remain at the highest level of COVID-19 transmission.
“We are not through with this pandemic, in spite of the fact that people are acting like we are,” UC Berkeley Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. John Swartzberg told KRON4 News. “There’s an awful lot of virus circulating, and that we are really on the cusp of seeing whether possible surge on top of the surge.”
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What’s spreading now is the latest sub-variant of omicron, this time BA.4 and BA.5
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, told KRON4, “we think of B.A. 4 the five as escape artists like Houdini because they can evade the immune system at the front door. So the guards or the front gate, the antibodies, they don’t really recognize B.A. 4 and B.A. 5 that well. So even if you had COVID recently, you can get reinfected again.”
That doesn’t mean staying in this weekend, but it does mean taking precautions.
Swartzberg says, “(to make) sure you’re up to date and that your vaccinations to many people just are not up to date. They haven’t gotten the third one or for some people, the fourth one, the second thing is wearing a mask an N95 , a KN95, when indoors with the public, critical. The other thing is trying to be outdoors, more than indoors, really will help a great deal.”
The recommendation of the booster is not just talk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that adults 50 and older with two booster doses were four times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those with one booster dose. Also, the unvaccinated were 42 times more likely to die.
While the current vaccine isn’t specifically designed for omicron, the FDA announced that will change later this year.
Dr. Chin-Hong tells KRON4, “the reason for including B.A. 4 and B.A. 5 in a booster is to not only prevent serious disease but to try and prevent even more breakthrough infections because we know that even being infected is disruptive to society, disruptive to our way of life, so if we can become better doing that, that will make society run smoother, even if there is a lot of virus around.”