As subvariants of the Omicron variant become more prevalent, COVID-19 is on the rise again. The number of cases is up 26% from last week, a threefold increase from last month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At least four sub-variants of Omicron are of concern as they have been shown to be more infectious than previous mutations. BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 are currently the most dominant, comprising 50.9% and 47.5% of all COVID cases, respectively, the CDC said, as reported by USA Today.
Also driving new infections is the decline in immunity that has now been established among people who were previously vaccinated and those previously infected with the virus, as well as the relaxation of mask requirements, the agency said in a briefing on coronavirus on Wednesday.
Director Rochelle Walensky noted that about a third of Americans now live in an area that has medium or high rates of COVID-19. She added that on average about 3,000 people in the US are being hospitalized per day from the virus and 275 are dying from COVID-19.
The CDC urges those who live in areas with high infection and hospitalization rates to wear face masks in closed public places. It also encourages Americans to get vaccinated or get their booster shot if they have received all of their shots.
But it is those who were previously infected with COVID-19 who may be the greatest cause for concern. An article published in the journal “Nature” on Wednesday indicated that unvaccinated people have little cross-immunity when it comes to previous COVID-19 infection.
“In the unvaccinated population, an infection with Omicron could be roughly equivalent to receiving an injection of a vaccine,” Melanie Ott, director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and co-senior author of the paper, said in a statement. “It does provide some protection against COVID-19, but it’s not very broad.”
The study showed that people infected with Omicron may only have protection against Omicron sub-variants and no other strains of COVID-19, such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants.
“When it comes to other variants that could evolve in the future, we can’t predict exactly what would happen, but based on these results, I suspect that unvaccinated people who were infected with Omicron will have very little protection,” Ott said. “But on the contrary, vaccinated people are likely to be more protected against future variants, especially if they had an advanced infection.”
The rise in COVID infections is compounded by a recent reduction in pandemic funding that will be needed as new vaccines are developed and are expected to arrive this fall or winter, USA Today reported.
The coronavirus response coordinator, Ashish Jha, who started in March, is aiming to ensure this happens. He is working with Congress for funding to ensure Americans have access to next-generation vaccines.
“I want to make sure we have enough resources so that we can buy enough vaccine for every American who wants more,” Jha said during the White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.
“I think that is absolutely critical. We don’t have the resources to do that right now. So without additional funding from Congress, we won’t be able to buy enough vaccine for every American who wants one once this new generation of vaccines comes out in the fall and winter. ”