Infectious disease specialists like Dr. John Swartzberg at UC Berkeley are concerned about the increase in B-A 2 cases. Swartzberg believes that local leaders may have moved too fast in removing a lot of the precautionary measures we had in place — like masking.
“I would argue that we should wait a few weeks and see where we are,” Swartzberg said.
Health officials continue to learn more about the omicron subvariant B-A 2, also referred to as the stealth variant.
Swartzberg says it’s only about 4 percent of the cases in the U.S. right now–but the number is growing.
“A couple weeks ago it was less than one percent, so it’s increasing,” he said.
He said in some other countries it has become the dominant strain — and that’s because experts believe it’s more contagious than the original omicron, or B-A 1.
“I think there’s a scientific consensus now that it’s somewhere between 30 and 50 percent more transmissible than B-A 1,” he said.
Swartzberg said there are new studies coming out about the variant all the time — one came out Wednesday saying it could also be more severe.
“It suggested that B-A 2 might be able to evade the immunity that we have from vaccines or previous infection better than omicron,” Swartzberg said. “That same group had some evidence to suggest it might make us sicker than omicron does, more like delta.”
But he said other data shows that countries with the highest vaccination and booster rates are seeing the least hospitalizations and deaths because of B-A 2.
He says the U.S. is lagging behind other countries in percentage of people boosted, and that could become a problem.
“That concerns me about the United States because we have a lot of people here who have gotten two jabs but they haven’t gotten the third,” he said.
Swartzberg did tell me this is all very preliminary work. He said to expect to learn more about B-A 2 in the coming weeks.