Scientists closely watching COVID-19 rise in the US, tracking new subvariants in South Africa

Virus Outbreak Pennsylvania
Posted at 6:45 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 07:29:08-04

TAMPA, Fla. — “No we’re not out of this, no it’s not over and in fact it’s never going to be over,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished USF Health Professor.

Researchers believe this surge of COVID-19 cases they’re starting to see right now is indicative of the pattern they’ve seen before.

“So far what history has told is us that the COVID virus has come in these waves and cycles where we get surges and then breaks. Theoretically right now, we’re still following some of that cycle,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, Associate Medical Director of the Emergency Room at Tampa General Hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict cases will continue to rise over the next few weeks, and the number of deaths are predicted to rise slightly too throughout the month of May.

“This thing is a new virus that’s out there that’s now going to be with us forever,” said Unnasch.

Scientists say with each wave they’re noticing that although cases may rise, hospitalizations and deaths are no where near as high as they used to be, which is a good sign.

“That means we might be turning the corner into seeing a much more common type of virus than what we’ve been used to so far with COVID. That’s where we have to get to to really get out of the woods,” said Wilson.

“I think this is going to basically taking its place along with influenza as sort of a seasonal disease that we’re going to see. It’s going to come through, it’s going to kill people every year,” said Unnasch.

In the meantime, researchers are keeping a close eye on this current wave.

Average daily hospitalizations are up about 10% according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Doctors are warning people that another summer surge in some capacity is likely this year.

Right now experts believe omicron’s BA.2 subvariant, BA.2.12.1 is fueling this rise in cases. It was first flagged by New York State officials in April. BA.2.12.1 is growing about 25% faster.

Scientists are tracking two other omicron subvariants in South Africa, BA.4 and BA.5, which are reported to be highly transmissible.

Experts say this is why people can’t let their guards down.

“This virus is a wily and resourceful foe and there could be other really bad variants that are going to be coming out and and so everybody let’s remain nimble. That’s the most important thing. We really need to remain nimble and we may need to go back to masking and things like that if we hit some turbulence along the way,” said Unnasch.