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The Omicron BA.5 subvariant is now the dominant COVID-19 strain in the US, and it’s driving a wave of summertime infections

BA.5 is now the dominant Omicron variant in the US, driving cases and hospitalizations.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

  • The Omicron BA.5 subvariant is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the US.
  • New CDC estimates indicate that BA.5 accounted for around 54% of the infections recorded last week.
  • This comes amid a surge in case numbers and hospitalizations across the country this summer.

The Omicron BA.5 subvariant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 plaguing the US, per new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The CDC released new estimates on Tuesday, which indicated that BA.5 made up 53.6% of the COVID-19 infections recorded last week. Meanwhile, BA.4, another contagious Omicron subvariant, accounted for 16.5% of the COVID-19 cases, meaning that these subvariants were recorded in just over 70% of the US’s COVID-19 cases over the week ending July 2. 

These numbers make BA.5 one of the primary drivers behind a recent summer spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

According to The New York Times COVID-19 case tracker, new cases have hit a daily average of 105,754 as of July 4, an increase of 10% over the last 14 days. The Times’ COVID-19 tracker also reported that hospitalizations have surged 12% to a daily average of 33,953 people, while intensive care admissions have risen 11% to a daily average of 3,793 cases over the last two weeks. 

The Omicron subvariants BA. 4 and 5 are known to have mutations that allow them to evade the protection against the virus provided by taking a COVID-19 vaccine, or a prior infection. 

The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, announced on June 30 that it is looking to approve vaccine booster jabs specifically meant to shield recipients against the Omicron BA.4 and 5 subvariants and to get these jabs rolled out for the fall and winter seasons.

Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement released on June 30 that the FDA was advising vaccine manufacturers to update their COVID-19 jabs and “add an Omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine composition.” 

“As we move into the fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19,” Marks said.

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