As BA.2 COVID variant cases increase in Europe, Bay Area doctor says we are 'better prepared'

"We now have a template for that and we learned what worked and what didn't work."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The U.S is typically four to six weeks behind COVID-19 trends in Europe, which is why the White House is keeping a close eye on the United Kingdom.

In the UK, the BA. 2 sub variant " growth rate has settled at approximately 80% greater relative growth for BA.2 compared to BA.1.," meaning it's growing faster than the initial omicron strain, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

The U.S is actively monitoring the spread of BA.2 abroad.

"We are still trying to assess ultimate impact whether people are going to be sick in large numbers there or whether it increases mortality, but is concerning," said Dr. Tom Inglesby, Senior Advisor to the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

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According to Dr. Inglesby the majority of BA.2 cases in the U.S are being detected in the northeast of the country.

"We do predict that is going to become the majority strain at some point that is circulating. It has not led to an increase in overall number of COVID cases," said Dr. Inglesby.

Before vaccines and boosters, an increase of COVID cases led to an uptick in hospitalizations.

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We spoke to the Chief of the Emergency Department at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital about how the last two years prepared them for this new phase of living with COVID.

"We opened other floors, we had designated specific areas to manage both critically ill and non-critically ill COVID-19 patients that needed to be admitted," said Dr. Chris Colwell, Chief of the Emergency Dept. Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

"We now have a template for that and we learned what worked and what didn't work. We were able to really refine a lot of the processes to be better prepared. So, we have those now ready to go."

In the Bay Area, many of the BA.2 cases are being detected in the South Bay, despite Santa Clara being the most highly vaccinated large county in the entire country, according to Dr. Sara Cody.


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"In the northern parts of the county the wastewater that we follow, most of omicron is this BA.2 sub lineage," said Dr. Sara Cody and added, "Interestingly enough it is not driving up the levels overall. I don't know why, but it isn't."

During a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara's Public health director said they recommend indoor masking.

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"There probably will come a time when we are going to need to wear them much of the time if there is another surge," said Dr. Cody.

Dr. Cody also emphasized that we are in a much better place now to respond to a variant.

"We will use the layers of protection," said Dr. Cody and added, "We've got vaccines, we've got boosters. We have lots of information, we have widespread testing, widespread availability of masks and we know what to do. So, we are not gonna have to shelter in place. We can keep ourselves and our families safe in other ways."

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Scientist say BA.2 is a variant that's closely related to the original omicron strain, shown to be more contagious than the original.



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