A new COVID-19 wave with the strongest strain of the Omicron variant appears to have started in New York, one of NYC's top epidemiologists in the city is saying.
Dr. Jay Varma, who was former Mayor Bill de Blasio's top public health advisor during the pandemic, said the infection rate appears to have stabilized at a high level rather than subsiding as summer starts to get into full swing.
"This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave," Varma stated in a Tweet.
"Reported cases are at a high plateau, which means actual transmission is very high when you account for the >20x under-counting," Varma noted.
Physician-scientist, author, and editor Eric Topol says, "The Omicron sub-variant BA.5 is the worst version of the virus that we’ve seen.
"It takes immune escape, already extensive, to the next level, and, as a function of that, enhanced transmissibility, well beyond Omicron (BA.1) and other Omicron family variants that we’ve seen (including BA.1.1, BA.2, BA.2.12.1, and BA.4).
"You could say it’s not so bad because there hasn’t been a marked rise in hospitalizations and deaths as we saw with Omicron, but that’s only because we had such a striking adverse impact from Omicron, for which there is at least some cross-immunity (BA.1 to BA.5)."
Varma said it's unclear if the possible new wave will result in an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
"At a minimum, can be confident predicting that BA.5 will lead to more days when people are out of work, kids home from school/camp, & more people suffering from #LongCOVID," Varma added in another Tweet.
"Debates at FDA & CDC re: BA.1 specific boosters will be critical," Varma said. "While 'chasing variants' is unlikely to be a long-term successful strategy, we need to see data on whether BA.1 boosters also increase protection at least partially against BA.5."
If it takes shape, a new wave would be the sixth since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The first Omicron wave happened in November 2021, marking when the United States went from being relatively strong at treating COVID cases resulting from the pre-Omicron variants to being relatively bad with the arrival of Omicron.
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