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Is BA.5 past its peak?

The BA.5 summer COVID-19 surge could already be nearing its end as both case and death figures are starting to contract after spiking over the first few weeks of July.

America is currently averaging 426 Covid deaths per day, a 20 percent drop over the past week that quickly reverses a trend from earlier this month that saw mortality from the virus double from July 6 through July 13.

Case figures are starting to recede as well, falling eight percent over the last week to 128,785 per day. These figures may be significant undercounts because of the high prevalence of at-home testing, asymptomatic and mild cases that often do not get recorded in official figures.

The drop in cases come as some officials prepare to bring back Covid measures to deal with the BA.5 variant – with Los Angeles set to bring back its indoor mask mandate next week and San Diego schools requiring masks indoors during summer programming.

The BA.5 variant is feared to be the most transmissible version of the virus to take hold in the U.S. yet by health officials.

It is also immune-evasive and can get around protections a person may have from previous Covid infection. Experts believe that a person could be re-infected with BA.5 within weeks of recovering from a different version of the Omicron variant.

This is a potentially worrying prospect that changes the understanding many have of the pandemic.

BA.5 has quickly grown in its prevalence across America and now makes up nearly four of every five cases in the U.S.

While is has caused cases to rise in recent weeks, experts are not panicking yet and believe the introduction of more Covid jabs could be what is needed to stop the spread.

‘The good news here is our tools, our vaccines if you are up to date, if you’ve been vaccinated recently… if you get treatments, those continue to work really well,’ Dr Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

‘This is an area of concern but we know how to manage this.’

The BA.5 variant (dark green) now makes up 78% of Covid cases in the U.S., rapidly outpacing other forms of the virus. The previously dominant BA 2.12.1 strain (red) now makes up less than 10% of active cases, according to the CDC

The BA.5 variant (dark green) now makes up 78% of Covid cases in the U.S., rapidly outpacing other forms of the virus. The previously dominant BA 2.12.1 strain (red) now makes up less than 10% of active cases, according to the CDC

The BA.5 variant (dark green) makes up between 70% and 80% of sequenced COVID-19 infections in every single region of America

The BA.5 variant (dark green) makes up between 70% and 80% of sequenced COVID-19 infections in every single region of America

He noted that people over the age of 50 – who suffer the most risk from the virus – should receive their fourth vaccine dose if they have not already.

The shots, which are the second booster after the original two-dose regimen of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, were made available earlier this year in an effort to shore up protection for the most vulnerable to the virus.

‘If you are 50 or over, if you have not gotten a shot this year in 2022, it is absolutely critical that you go and get one now it will offer a high degree of protection,’ Jha said.

America has no introduced a new shot into its arsenal as well. On Tuesday the CDC officials signed off on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for the Novavax vaccine in all Americans 18 and older.

The long-awaited shots are the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccines to hit the market in the U.S., though they may already be outdated.

These jabs were formulated to combat the original Wuhan strain of the virus that stormed the world in early 2020.

In the time since the virus has mutated to get around much of the protection from infection provided by vaccines tailored to that strain.

While there is hope the Novavax shot will still be effective against the newer Omicron strains, the FDA has already made it clear it wants reformulated Covid jabs tailored to newer strains to be ready this fall.

Some also doubt these shots will ever be needed. While newer strains of the virus can evade immunity against infection, vaccinated individuals are still believed to have strong protection against serious hospitalization or death.

‘He said it’s absolutely critical to get boosted if you are over 50. But that added protection is a weak augmentation of immunity against the current strain since the booster vaccine is being given is against the original Wuhan strain,’ Dr Marty Makary, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, wrote to DailyMail.com.

‘Importantly, once again, Dr Jha supporting the big Pharma narrative in denying the fact that natural immunity provides strong protection against severe disease.’

‘Dr Jha is failing to remind people that Omicron poses no significant public health risk to the vast majority of Americans beyond that of common-cold like symptoms,’ he added.

As BA.5 has grown its pushed other variants to the fringes. The BA 2.12.1 variant that was dominant only a few weeks ago now makes up just nine percent of U.S. cases. The BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant has almost entirely disappeared to this point.

BA.4, which was discovered in South Africa around the same time as BA.5, makes up 13 percent of cases in the U.S., the CDC reports.

The new dominant variant has spread across the country fairly evenly, making up between 70 to 80 percent of sequenced cases in every single region of America.

Fear of the BA.5 variant pushed some officials to bizarrely reinstate mask orders in recent weeks. 

In San Diego, school officials published a letter last week announcing that masks will now be required for the remainder of summer programming.

‘If your student is participating in summer school or other summer enrichment program, please send them to school or their program with a mask,’ officials wrote.

‘If they do not have one, masks will be provided. Students and staff will be required to wear their masks while indoors only.’

The news has left many parents worrying that their children may once again have to wear masks in schools when the educational year restarts this August.

‘The news that mask mandates are returning in LA and San Diego is extremely distressing. As the world moves on from COVID panic, California is moving backwards. Keeping children, the people least at risk and least likely to transmit the virus, masked is cruel and unscientific,’ Kira Davis, a California mother who is running for school board in nearby Orange County, told DailyMail.com.

‘This is merely an attempt to keep schools in a state of emergency and keep those pandemic dollars flowing. Parents and those who care about our students need to push their local school to immediately adopt resolutions resisting the return of these ridiculous mandates. It’s clear now that in CA none of this ends until we demand it does.

‘Parents in my district, which is sandwiched between LA and San Diego, are livid. Many have told me if our schools return to a mandate they will not be returning their children in the fall.’ 

Makary notes that many of the masks people have at home are likely useless against the virus. Growing research shows that both cloth and surgical masks do not have the necessary fit or filtration to properly prevent spread of Covid. 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk