MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — While Alabama’s COVID-19 positivity rate is at 2.5 percent, the lowest in months, a new variant is cropping up in the state.
BA.2 is a subvariant of the Omicron version of the virus that’s become dominant over the past few months. But doctors say, for now, it’s not of huge concern.
“We’re not really worried at the moment, but in a few months, it’s quite likely that because we still have a largely unvaccinated state, we’re going to be at risk for an outbreak with BA.2,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said.
Dr. Harris says BA.2 is the most transmissible variant yet identified, but so far doesn’t seem to cause more severe illness. He says the first cases popped up a few weeks ago, and Alabama likely has a few dozen infections right now. But it may take time before the virus spreads.
“A lot of those people have a little bit of immunity that’s going to be on board for a few weeks or few months so we may not see BA.2 take off as rapidly,” Harris said.
Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Donald Williamson says hospitals haven’t been hit.
“At this point, it has not made an impact. Hospitalizations are still going down. It hasn’t made a difference,” Williamson said.
Williamson says the state’s better prepared now for a potential surge thanks to vaccines, natural immunity and anti-viral drugs.
“I would also not be surprised to see some slight increase in the number of hospitalizations, but based on what we’ve seen in other countries, at least I’m not expecting to see the surge in hospitalizations we saw with Omicron or with Delta,” Williamson said.
Williamson says he hopes this variant is part of a trend that leads to COVID becoming endemic, or seasonal like the flu.
Harris says that while certain monoclonal antibody treatments don’t seem as effective in treating this new variant, the COVID vaccine still holds up.