New COVID-19 Variants Displace Stable BA.5 Variant, Could Change Transmission Rate
Less than 40% of cases nationwide are now long-dominant Omicron subvariant
The long-dominant subvariant of Omicron, called BA.5 is no longer the dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S., making up less than 40% of cases across the U.S. as of Nov. 4. Broken down by regions, the data shows that in the Great Lakes states, the formerly dominant variant is responsible approximately 45% of cases. As of last week, the long-dominant Omicron subvariant still accounted for more than 50% of cases in the Wisconsin region and across the U.S.
“As we see a substantial change in the variant landscape with BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 substantially displacing BA.5, we are reminded that the pandemic remains dynamic,” Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County, told Urban Milwaukee Friday. “Given that, it is important for everyone, but especially those over 65 to get their COVID bivalent booster.”
Public health officials have been urging vaccination and booster shots while the disease was stable, saying that population-level immunity was the best defense against a new mutation of the disease, as that mutation will bring with it new disease characteristics that cannot be predicted.
“Additionally, we are seeing an earlier than usual rise in influenza activity, which means that if you have not already done so, now is the time to get your flu shot,” Weston said.
In Milwaukee County, 61.6% of the overall population is completely vaccinated, according to a countywide vaccination report. Anyone six months or older is currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
Among county residents eligible for a booster, 58.8% have received one. Eligibility for a booster dose includes anyone that is five years old or older and completed an initial vaccine series of Pfizer or Moderna as of June 3 or received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine on or prior to Sept. 1.
There were 129 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 this past week and two deaths.
The positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19, was 9.3% this past week. This figure only includes PCR laboratory tests and does not include rapid-antigen or at-home tests.
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