Highly-transmissible COVID subvariant increasing in CA, but expert 'doubts' lockdowns will be needed

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In the last two weeks, the UK and other parts of Europe are reporting a spike in COVID-19 cases due to an omicron sub-variant called BA.2 which is believed to be 30 % more transmissible than the initial strain.

"It will slowly, but surely overtake omicron," said Dr. Warner Greene and added, "It's moving at a slower pace, but still it will likely become the globally dominant variant."

Historically what happens in Europe with COVID, tends to happen in the U.S four to six weeks later.

Dr. Warner Greene is a Senior Investigator for the Gladstone Institutes. His work in virology for over 30 years is leading him to keep a close eye on this data.

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"There are hot spots forming in the United States. For example in the Chicago area," said Dr. Greene.

Throughout California, scientists are monitoring wastewater. This will be the first line of detection before any outbreaks here. Alexandria Boehm is a Professor of Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. She's part of a team that's tracking 12 water plants in northern California.

"We see that BA.2 mutations are going up in all of them. In some of them they are going up more quickly than others like for example in Oceanside in San Francisco they've gone up quite a bit compared to other locations," said Professor Boehm.

According to Professor Boehm the increase is very small.

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"Until this last week where we had this little bump in wastewater concentration or BA.2 also increase," said Professor Boehm. "If you look at the big scheme of things we've gone down quite a bit."

Even if BA. 2 becomes the dominant strain in the U.S, Dr. Greene says we are still in a much better place now.

Luz Pena: "Do you think that the increase of BA. 2 could lead to lockdowns?"
Dr. Greene: "No. I doubt it. We have too many tools that are much better than a lockdown."

Dr. Greene says what's key is our vaccination rate. Over 78% of Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine. He says that if you're vaccinated and boosted and you get infected with BA. 2 you are very unlikely to end up hospitalized.

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