Omicron subvariant spreading rapidly across New York

The New York (NY) State Department of Health has announced two new subvariants of the Omicron variant in New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reportedly extended the mask mandate for two weeks, following reports concerning the emergent subvariants.

According to international media, the new subvariants BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, sublineages of the BA.2, detected in New York are considered to be ‘highly contagious’. United States (US) President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly extended a public health emergency for up to ninety days. 

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According to the NY Department of Health, the variants account for 80.6% of Covid-19 infections in the area, with the sub-variants estimated at a “23% – 27% growth advantage above the original BA.2 variant”. However, they are not causing an increase in the level of severity of infection, according to health officials. 

Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett has reportedly said, that they are alerting the public so that they can “act swiftly”. Bassett continued to urge New Yorkers to get vaccinated and to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Bassett further urged the public to get treatment in the likelihood they turn up positive. According to a press release by the Department of Health, Bassett said that while the variants are new, “the tools to combat them are not”.

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In addition, the Health Commissioner thanked medical health facilitators from the department for their ‘leading’ efforts. According to reports, the subvariants were first discovered in a public health lab in Albany, known for genetic sequencing of Covid-19 samples during the pandemic. The findings are the first ‘reported instances’ of community spread across the US. So far, no evidence of an increase in ‘diseases severity’ has been established. However, the officials of the Health Department are closely monitoring the situation for any significant changes. 

According to international media, apart from sequencing Covid-19 samples at the Wadsworth Center, where the subvariants were first discovered, the health officials monitor data submitted to public databases throughout the country, primarily the GISAID (Global initiative on sharing all influenza data).

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Meanwhile, the New York State Department of Health has issued a list of guidelines for New Yorkers to limit the further spread of Covid-19: 

  • Get fully vaccinated and boosted
  • Wear a mask in public indoor spaces
  • Get tested after exposure, symptoms, and/or travel
  • Stay at home if you turn Covid-19 positive, and consult a health care provider
  • Improve air ventilation

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According to the State Department, symptoms of Covid-19 may include flu, fatigue, breathing problems, fever and/or chills, and body aches among others. While lasting effects may include “serious illness and hospitalization”.

Virologist Kirsten St. George has said this is a “reminder that we’re not out of the woods with regard to this virus, and people should continue to take precautions”. The virologist added that the subvariants have so far been detected in over forty countries and more than thirty states across the US. 

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