DETROIT – According to the CDC, the omicron variant BA.5 has consistently become more dominant since May.
In fact, at the start of July, it officially became the most dominant strain accounting for 53% of isolates, increasing to 65% this week.
The biggest reason for BA.5′s rise to prominence is that it seems to be able to evade whatever immunity we’ve acquired better than prior variants.
There’s also an element of increased transmissibility, plus the natural decrease in our collective immunity over time since our last vaccinations. Additionally, fewer people are taking personal precautions, and we’re seeing another increase.
“I do believe that we are now in another surge,” said Henry Ford Health’s Director of Infection Prevention, Dr. Dennis Cunningham. “This one is primarily being driven by BA.5 variant of omicron.”
“This week, the number of hospital admissions in Southeast Michigan has started to increase again,” Cunningham said. “When you looked at Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, new hospital admissions for COVID jumped up an average of 13% over the past seven days, so I think we’re starting to see some more inpatients.”
But so far, the hospital pattern is different than in prior surges.
“While we have more admissions, we’re not seeing more patients in the intensive care unit,” Cunningham said. “Why is that? There are a couple of different factors. One could be that BA.5 isn’t quite as nasty as some of the earlier strains we had, such as alpha-beta delta. We also now have oral antivirals.”
Based on current infection rates, some experts estimate BA.5 could infect 10 to 15% of Americans in the coming months.
While many people have different experiences, here’s an idea of what to expect.
“So the BA.5 seems to be a lot like the other omicron variants,” Cunningham said. “A lot of cold symptoms, fever, and aches. One thing that was reported in Great Britain where BA.5 is driving this is that it does seem to be causing more of a hoarse or scratchy throat, a hoarse voice.”
At this point, Dr. Cunningham recommends that indoor masking is something people should consider, especially in more crowded settings.
Fortunately, summer in Michigan means more outdoor opportunities where masking shouldn’t be necessary.