Some laboratories in North Carolina have detected the presence of the latest COVID-19 variant, a subvariant of omicron called BA.2.
“BA.2 represents a very small proportion of sequenced viruses in the United States at this time,” a state Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman told WRAL News.
She issued this reminder: “The best way that people can to protect themselves from serious illness, hospitalization and death from all COVID-19 variants: getting vaccinated and boosted as soon as you are eligible.”
The news is troubling for people like Suzanne Beaumont, who said the pandemic continues to teach us something new.
She said it feels too early to end local mask mandates across the state.
“It feels a little bit soon, we’ve been in our masks a long time. Things keep happening. I’m going to wear mine for awhile,” said Beaumont.
The BA.2 subvariant is also called “stealth omicron” because researchers say it can be harder to detect on a PCR test. It also shows resistance to some treatments and may cause more serious illness than the initial omicron variant.
Health experts say BA.2 is 30% to 50% more contagious than the original omicron variant, but so far, according to NPR, the BA.2 subvariant has spread slowly in the United States.
Dr. Mary Braithwaithe suggests being mindful of one’s environment.
“I don’t want to overly worry anyone. I just want us to be smart with our choices,” said Braithwaithe.
As mask mandates loosen, it’s more important to bolster defenses with a looming subvariant.
“I would exercise some caution with the relaxation of mask mandates and consider in places where people are gathering and places where people are high risk to continue masking,” said Braithwaite.