ALBANY, N.Y. (April 13, 2022) The New York State Department of Health today announced the emergence of two Omicron subvariants in New York State, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. Both variants are sub-lineages of BA.2, which now accounts for 80.6% of COVID-19 infections in New York. The subvariants have been estimated to have a 23% – 27% growth advantage above the original BA.2 variant. Over the past few weeks, the Department has been investigating higher than average infection rates in Central New York. Based on newly available data in the public database, GISAID, as well as additional data submitted directly to the Wadsworth Center from sequencing laboratories in New York, State health officials have determined that these highly contagious new variants are likely contributing to the rising cases. For the month of March, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 rose to collectively comprise more than 70% prevalence in Central New York and more than 20% prevalence in the neighboring Finger Lakes region. Data for April indicate that levels in Central New York are now above 90%. The Department’s findings are the first reported instances of significant community spread due to the new subvariants in the United States. At this time, there is no evidence of increased disease severity by these subvariants, though the Department is closely monitoring for any changes.
Two new omicron coronavirus subvariants are spreading fast in New York as the Easter holiday nears, and state health officials have announced precautionary measures.
Omicron BA.2, the coronavirus variant that has been spreading around the globe since December, has morphed into two new subvariants, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. They’re being cited as a leading contributor to rising infections in New York, according to state health officials.
The New York State Department of Health announced Wednesday a statewide emergence of the subvariants and urged a “continued vigilance” against COVID-19.
What we know:A new coronavirus variant combination, XE, has been detected in the UK.
Should we be worried? Mask mandates are returning to Philadelphia amid rising COVID cases
A look at everything you need to know:
What are the subvariants?
BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 have sublineages to BA.1, better known as omicron. They’ve been detected in more than 40 other countries and in more than 30 states across the USA.
In central New York, the subvariants have accounted for 70% of new cases in March.
“We are alerting the public to two Omicron subvariants, newly emerged and rapidly spreading in upstate New York, so New Yorkers can act swiftly,” State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said in a statement.
“While these subvariants are new, the tools to combat them are not. … Get fully vaccinated and boosted, test following exposure, symptoms, or travel, consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, and consult with your healthcare provider about treatment if you test positive.”
How serious are the subvariants?
Health officials from the CDC said the new viruses do not appear to cause more severe disease than earlier variants.
What’s of most concern is how contagious and rapid the new viruses are spreading, with a growth advantage of 25% over BA.2 by comparison. There is no data to determine whether the growth comes as a result of being more contagious than any other variant or whether it evades the body’s immune defenses better. The spreading is still not at the rate of omicron in the winter but mirrors that of the delta variant wave in the summer and fall.
US remains under a public health emergency
Not only has the CDC and state of New York announced moves to combat the subvariants, but the Biden administration extended the national public health emergency for 90 days as a result. That helps address medical insurance coverage concerns. Also, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended a federal transportation mask mandate for two weeks.
The subvariants and omicron as a whole account for 81% of coronavirus cases in New York, according to state health officials. The state Department of Health reminded New Yorkers to do the following:
- Get fully vaccinated and boosted when eligible.
- Consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status.
- Test after exposure, symptoms, or travel.
- If you test positive for the virus, stay home and consult with a health care provider.
- Improve air ventilation or gather outdoors to reduce transmission and the risk of severe disease over the Easter and Passover holidays.
In Pennsylvania, mask mandates returned to Philadelphia Monday amid rising cases. National weekly case counts, which dipped below 200,000 at the start of the month, have risen to above 245,000, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data.
The New York State Department of Health reminds all New Yorkers that COVID-19 remains a public health risk to individuals of all ages. Short-term side effects of COVID-19 may include flu-like symptoms, fatigue, trouble breathing, fever or chills, muscle and body aches, and more. Severe symptoms can lead to serious illness and hospitalization. New Yorkers who are not vaccinated or up to date with vaccinations are at increased risk of developing severe disease.New Yorkers can schedule their free COVID-19 vaccine, booster, or additional dose by visiting the State’s Am I Eligible website or vaccines.gov to find a nearby location.