SAN JOSE (KPIX) — The new Omicron variant BA.2 has been confirmed in wastewater testing in Santa Clara County. The highest concentrations of the variant were in Palo Alto and Gilroy.
”We see that BA.2 is likely replacing BA.1, which was the original Omicron virus that was infecting the population here,” said Alexandria Böhm, a Stanford Professor of Environmental Engineering involved in wastewater surveillance.
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The news comes at a time when two-year old protections such as mask mandates are being lifted and people are gathering again, often indoors.
That’s a concern for health officials because BA.2 is even more transmissible than previous variants.
”It is at least 30 percent more transmissible, maybe even more, as high as 50 percent. It means that whatever strategies you’ve used to escape being infected may not work with BA.2,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of UCSF.
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Dr. Chin-Hong says the data shows that, so far, BA.2 is not causing people to get sicker and need hospitalizations.
And he says vaccines are proving to be effective against it.
”Regardless of when you got your vaccines, if you have gotten two or more depending on your age group, you would be protected against serious disease, hospitalization and death,” Chin-Hong said.
Presence of the variant in wastewater surveillance is usually two weeks ahead of when clinical cases would show up, so the full impact the variant is yet to come as the pandemic enters its third year.
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”It’s definitely not over. We will continue to see ups and downs until a time when it’s just in the background. But we’re not there yet,” Chin-Hong said.
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