Health officials say omicron cases peaking, stay cautious

JACKSON, Tenn. — Health officials with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have an update on the recent COVID-19 variants.

As the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly, health officials said there is a variant of omicron also called the stealth variant.

Dr. Andrew Pekosz, with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said data on the variant is still new and it is not being shown to infect those who previously had omicron.

“Right now there is really no data saying the BA-2 surge is really driven by re-infections of BA-1 infected individuals. Right now it looks like most of the BA-2 infections are in new individuals or people who haven’t been infected with omicron,” Pekosz said.

Pekosz said studies show the stealth variant is not presenting more severe symptoms, but is showing to spread rapidly like the omicron variant.

“Early data suggest that there is no more increase in disease severity with either one of those variants. There may be a little bit of a transmissible advantage, but these are very early studies right now,” Pekosz said.

Dr. Crystal Watson, with Johns Hopkins, said for most countries around the world, COVID-19 cases are starting to peak.

Although, she said we should still stay cautious.

“While these cases are ebbing, I think it is important not to jump into a post-pandemic mindset just yet. There is still a lot of opportunity for other variants to emerge,” Watson said.

Watson said while we are moving in the right direction to protect against COVID-19 with vaccines, getting to a point with little to no hospitalizations and deaths is the goal to get back to normal.

“Once we start to see that even more disconnected from hospitalizations and deaths, that is when we can kind of start to take a deep breath and really think about how we treat this virus going forward,” Watson said.

Watson said health officials are stressing the importance of testing because it can help with research and containing the spread.

“Identify who has the virus, how it is spreading at the community level. It is also important for individuals to make decisions about their actions and organizations to decide what they can do in terms of mitigation measures,” Watson said.

Pekosz and Watson said health officials will continue to monitor the stealth variant and hopefully get a better understanding of it in the future.

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