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Omicron BA.2 variant on the rise in Rhode Island, New England

A COVID-19 rapid test. (WJAR)
A COVID-19 rapid test. (WJAR)
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.2 version of omicron is the dominant variant in the U.S., accounting for 73% of COIVD cases in New England.

BA.2 is dubbed the "stealth" omicron variant because it can be harder to track. It accounts for about half the new infections across the country.

“There is no extra cause for concern with this new subvariant at the moment,” former Rhode Island health director Dr. Michael Fine said. "Predictions I've seen suggest we may see an uptick in cases of about 12% over the next couple of weeks."

The omicron variant can be harder to track and is believed to be much more transmissible but no more severe than the omicron variant that emerged in November.

“We might have a new wave of infections and new surge and it's concerning because we could see more people getting hospitalized again,” Dr. Karen Tashima, director of clinical trials at The Miriam Hospital, said.

Rhode Island’s positivity rate and new hospital admissions are trending downward.

The Department of Health said in the middle of March, the subvariant accounted for about 20% of new cases.

Tashima, an infectious disease doctor, said she believes that number is now higher.

"We think it's probably at least 50% of the strains that that are being seen in Rhode Island," she said.

Exact numbers can be hard to determine because people who are tested at a state-run site or with an at-home kit, their results don’t indicate which strain of the virus is present.

“It has to be sent off for DNA analysis and that only happens with a small subset of positive cases," Fine said. "It's important for public health folks to know. I don't think it matters much for most people."

The Rhode Island Department of Health said: "The most important measure that someone can take at this point is being up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations. That means being boosted if you are eligible for a booster dose. There are booster doses available in every community throughout Rhode Island. Getting booster significantly decreases the chances that you will be hospitalized because of COVID-19."

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