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Scientists Worry New Virus Variant May Cause New COVID Case Surge in U.S. [VIDEO]

Scientists Worry New Virus Variant May Cause New COVID Case Surge in U.S. [VIDEO]

With coronavirus cases rising in parts of Europe and Asia, scientists worry that an extra-contagious version of the Omicron variant may soon push cases up in the United States too. The U.S. will likely see a rise in cases caused by the Omicron descendant BA.2 starting in the next few weeks, according to Dr. Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute.

Experts are keeping their eyes on the mutation, a rare Delta-Omicron hybrid that they say “doesn’t pose much of a threat right now” but shows how adaptable the coronavirus can be. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told ABC’s “This Week” over the weekend that he also thinks the U.S. will likely face an “uptick” similar to what’s happening in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, where BA.2 is the dominant strain. He said he doesn’t think it will be a “surge.”

[Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images]
After about two months of falling COVID-19 cases, pandemic restrictions have been lifted across the U.S. Many people are taking off their masks and returning to indoor spaces like restaurants and theaters. “It’s inevitable we will see a BA.2 wave here,” Dr. Fauci said.

In the U.S., the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows COVID-19 cases overall have been trending down. But the share caused by BA.2 is up significantly; the variant accounted for about 35% of new infections reported last week. In the Northeast, it was about half.

Experts say much still remains unknown about the BA.2 hybrid, but there’s no evidence it causes more severe disease, and it doesn’t look like it’s infecting many people. CDC researchers identified 9 samples, seven from the mid-Atlantic region in a study released Monday that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. Another new study shows that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and follow-up boosters remain more durable than scientists had previously believed.

The new hybrid may not be cause for immediate concern, but top Biden administration aides are still hoping Congress will change their minds and continue to fund COVID relief.

 

Vaccines appear just as effective against both types of omicron, but breakthrough infections are possible. And experts point out that about 74% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated in the U.S, compared with 86% in the U.K.

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