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BA.2 Subvariant Makes Future of Pandemic Uncertain

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COVID at UVA Health: By the Numbers

Small Dip in Cases, But New BA.2 Subvariant Brings Uncertainty

When will the current surge end? That’s the question on everyone’s minds.

The good news: We’re seeing a small decrease in the number of local cases and hospitalizations at UVA Health.

Get Vaccinated or Boosted

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Your best protection against being hospitalized with COVID is getting the vaccine or booster.

However, the new omicron subvariant, BA.2, makes the future uncertain, says UVA hospital epidemiologist Costi Sifri, MD. Nicknamed the “stealth variant,” BA.2 has popped up in neighboring states, including West Virginia and North Carolina.

“It looks like we’re on the back side of the surge locally, but we still have high case rates and a high hospitalization number,” he says. “We’re hoping to see a rapid decline, but we’re worried we’ll see a plateau due to the emergence of the omicron subvariant.”

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While it doesn’t appear to cause more severe illness than the original variant, BA.2 spreads easily and can result in long hospital stays.

“The steep decline in hospitalizations we were hoping to see may be prolonged in those areas with this variant,” Sifri says.

The bottom line: we’re not out of the woods yet, so stay cautious.

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“Rates are coming down, but they’re still high,” Sifri says. “At some point, they will be low, and we can start to ease some precautions, but we need to remain vigilant at this time.”

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) a Risk for Kids

Right now, about 15-20% of COVID infections are in children, says Sifri.

“In general, it’s a mild infection, but we do see significant cases leading to hospitalization,” he says. “We’re still seeing post-infection syndromes like MIS-C.”

This condition causes different parts of the body to become inflamed, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. It can be dangerous, but most children have gotten better with medical care.

Learn more about symptoms and when to seek emergency care from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

N95 Masks Are Best, but Any Mask Helps

N95 masks offer great protection and are easier to find and less costly than they were earlier in the pandemic.

“Their filtration capacity is very high,” Sifri says. “They offer a high level of protection against aerosol transmission. They’re of significant benefit, particularly when there’s a lot of COVID or if you’re in locations with a lot of people who you don’t know, they’re not masked, or you don’t know their vaccine status.”

Still, the the most important mask is “the one you’ll wear,” he says.

“It’s important for it to be comfortable, fit you well, and that you’re not taking it off,” he says. “If it’s N95, that’s great, but medical grade is good too. If you’re wearing cloth, wear medical grade under it.”



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