Experts are worried about a summer surge of COVID-19 cases.
A new omicron subvariant known as BA.5 has the potential to reinfect those who tested positive only a few months ago. It’s now the dominant strain in the U.S., and it’s highly contagious, even for those who are vaccinated and boosted.
“Unlike any other variant, it has this incredible capacity for immune escape … Because it tends to have this capacity for reinfection, we’re worried we’re going to see increasing cases this summer,” said Dr. Nicole Van Groningen of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
California’s test positivity rate is 15%, 10 times what it was in April, and in L.A., it’s even higher: 16.9%.
This is bad news for the 3.1 million people in the L.A. area who’ve already recovered from COVID-19, according to Dr. Dean Blumberg of UC Davis.
“There’s emerging evidence to suggest with each repeat infection, there are other complications that may occur, such as strokes, heart attacks and other long-term complications,” Blumberg said.
Vaccination remain the best way to prevent serious illness in most people, and hospitalizations and deaths are remaining low, though mask mandates could return if community transmission levels remain high for two weeks.
“People are worried and if we don’t start to take better precautions voluntarily, we might actually get back to the point where we need the mandate,” Van Groningen said.
Omicron-specific boosters are expected to be available this fall, but experts say people shouldn’t wait, as it’s important to get the vaccine and boosters as soon as they’re eligible.