PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Health officials are tracking a fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron subvariant believed to be the most transmissible yet.
The White House COVID Response Team addressed the wave of new infections during a briefing Tuesday. Officials said the new BA.5 subvariant is spreading fast and causes more infection.
They’re also urgently working to figure out vaccine composition for this fall ahead of a possible surge in cases.
As COVID cases rise once again in much of the country, health officials pointed the finger at BA.5, saying it’s responsible for more than half of new infections.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke at the White House.
“We do not know yet about the clinical severity of BA.4 and BA.5 in comparison to our other Omicron subvariants, but we do know it to be more transmissible and more immune evading,” Walensky said. “People with prior infection, even from BA.1 and BA.2, are likely still at risk from BA.4 and BA.5.”
An average of 5,200 virus-positive Americans are hospitalized each day, the highest number of daily admissions since February. The U.S. is averaging 100,000 new cases daily.
But experts warn that number could actually be seven times higher, with home tests often unreported.
“When you’re talking about a virus that’s not going to be eradicated, it’s not going to be eliminated,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician, said. “It’s much more important to focus not on cases, but on hospitalizations and hospital capacity concerns.”
Moderna reported its new booster produced six times more antibodies against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants a month after injection, but that new shot won’t likely be available until October or November at the earliest.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the president of United States, said if you’ve been infected even in the last month, you should still get a booster or vaccine, because immunity wanes.
“If you’ve been infected, or vaccinated, and your time comes for a boost, that’s when you should get the boost,” he said. “I will be in line to get another boost after that.”
71 million Americans still have not gotten a single shot; 44 million of those are kids. More than half of the eligible population has not gotten their first booster.