Dr Anthony Fauci is once again recommending that Americans mask-up in indoor public places – though he says no mandates are around the corner and a that a recent uptick in cases caused by the BA.5 variant should not disrupt the life of people in the United States.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert issued his recommendations during an interview with MSNBC Tuesday night, where he described the variant as something that also must be taken seriously by Americans.
According to most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the strain now makes up 65 percent of active cases in the U.S – a figure that has rocketed in recent weeks since it first popped up on sequencing trackers last month.
While its impact on case figures has not been quite as dramatic, daily infections are trending upwards. The U.S. is now averaging 125,707 cases per day, a 15 percent jump over the past week. Deaths attributed to the virus have spiked, up 53 percent over the past week to 498 per day.
The BA.5 (dark green) variant now makes up 65% of active cases in the U.S., over taking the BA 2.12.1 (red) strain – which now makes up just 17% of cases. The BA.4 (light green) variant is responsible for 16% of U.S. Covid cases
‘[BA.5 is] something we absolutely need to take seriously. It has a transmission advantage over the prior variant that were dominant,’ Fauci said.
The variant is believed to be the most infectious form of Omicron to arrive yet. Early data from South Africa – where it was first detected – also shows it may have the ability to evade natural Covid immunity provided by previous infection.
Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured) recommends Americans mask up while in crowded indoor public places, but does not believe mandates will come back
This is especially dangerous as it means many people who believe they are temporarily safe from Covid due to a previous infection are suddenly vulnerable once again.
It arrived alongside the BA.4 variant – also detected earlier this year in South Africa – which now makes up 16 percent of cases, per CDC data.
The BA 2.12.1 variant that was dominant before BA.5 now makes up just 17 percent of cases, being snuffed out by the two new strains.
The rampant spread of the two new strains, along with the rising cases that have come with it, have officials like Fauci recommending that Americans bring back some Covid measures they may be already-to-familiar with from the past two years.
‘Everybody wants to put this pandemic behind us and feel and hope that it doesn’t exist. It does, the good news is we have the capability and the tools to address it, and we need to utilize those tools,’ Fauci, who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease said.
‘For example, getting vaccinated if you’re not primarily vaccinated. If you’re do for a booster, get a booster.
‘And if you’re in an area of high dynamic of infection – and were talking about mandating anything – but recommending people when they are in indoor congregate settings to wear a mask. Those are simple doable things that can help prevent us from even having more of a problem then we are having now.’
Booster shots will likely soon include newly formulated jabs meant to target the Omicron variant, as vaccine manufacturers aim to roll out new shots in the coming months.
Currently available shots were formulated to fight the original Wuhan strain of the virus that erupted across the world at the start of 2020.
The virus has mutated greatly in the time since, and the Omicron variant-family has the ability to evade protection from infection provided by those shots.
Some experts disagree that shots tailored to Omicron are necessary, though, as the protection against severe infection, hospitalization and death by the original shots is still effective against the highly infectious strain.
Fauci points to the New York area as being a particular hotspot for the virus and even the first area to experience the next wave of the virus – as it often has been throughout the pandemic.
Cases in the Empire state have increased 27 percent over the past two weeks, according to most recently available data.
In New York City, daily infections have jumped 29 percent, though hospitalization and death figures remain limited because of the city’s large vaccine uptake.
Dr Jay Varma, former public health advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, warned last week that BA.5 could the reason case figures in the nation’s largest city are starting to turn upwards – and that it could be a sign of another surge.
‘The decline of reported [COVID-19] cases in NYC has stopped. Reported cases are at a high plateau, which means actual transmission is very high when you account for the >20x under-counting. This is likely the beginning of a BA.5 wave,’ he said in a tweet.