‘Highly-transmissible’ COVID-19 variant fueling rise in cases

BA-5 is highly contagious, transmissible and evades antibodies in many vaccinated individuals.

SEATTLE — Described as highly transmissible and elusive, it is causing a surge in coronavirus cases in Washington and across the country.

The Omicron subvariant BA.5 is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Washington state, and now across the country, according to health officials and new data released Wednesday.

It catches many people who have been vaccinated and boosted against the virus off guard because it leads to reinfections across the country.

Even libraries across Puget Sound are making adjustments.

At the Beacon Hill Library Branch, you can take home free COVID-19 tests when you borrow books.

This is one of the many precautions the library is taking as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, fueled by BA.5.

“I heard a bit about it. But with the BA.5 I don’t worry about that. I just had COVID,” Jenny Pohly said.

Pohly said the coronavirus is once again a topic of conversation among her family and friends.

“It’s so weird. I feel like every month now a bunch of people get it and then it goes away and then a bunch of people are going to get it,” Pohly said.

New figures from the State Department of Public Health show that an omicron strain called BA.5 is now the dominant strain in WA.

The number of cases involving the omicron variant BA.5 has increased since the beginning of June.

“Maybe I’m a little delusional but I just had it but how do I get it back,” Pohly asked rhetorically.

DR Pavitra Roychoudhury of the University of Washington Virology Lab explained how this strain leads to more cases.

“It’s a variant that has proven to be highly transferrable. And it’s also proven to be very good at bypassing antibody protection,” said Dr. Roychoudhury.

He believes now is not the time to lose his guard.

I am quite concerned by the fact that the case numbers are still so high that the percent positivity rate for specimens that come into our lab is still well over 20%. And it’s been over 20% or around 20% for over a month now. And that tells me there’s this ongoing level of community transmission,” said Dr. Roychoudhury.

In response to the surge in cases, Seattle Public Libraries have adjusted their hours of operation.

“The reason we’re reducing hours is because of staffing and the impact of COVID cases,” said Andrew Harbison, interim director of public services at Seattle Public Libraries.

Harbison said they increased headcount by 9 percent, but with sick visits and other furloughs it fell back to 8 percent, Harbison said.

“So we’re back where we started,” he added.

“I think the most important thing is to get a boost if you haven’t gotten a boost yet,” said Dr. Roychoudhury. “The boosters with the current boosters that we have were developed based on the original SARS-COVID-2 sequence or lineage. So what is currently being developed is a booster specific to the currently circulating Omicron lines. And that will help a lot.”

Vaccine pop-ups are taking place across the region, including a pop-up at Renton Library on Thursday 14 July from 10am to 2pm. A full list of locations and vaccination clinics can be found here.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/health/highly-transmissible-covid-19-variant-causing-reinfections-washington/281-5556fb29-49e4-4d8f-ae2d-c6231bf53388 ‘Highly-transmissible’ COVID-19 variant fueling rise in cases

Alley Einstein

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