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BA.2 becomes dominant variant virus strain in Washington, but so far it’s not leading to an uptick in cases

UPDATED: Thu., March 31, 2022

The subvariant of omicron, called BA.2, is now the dominant variant strain in the state of Washington.

“Hospitalizations are similar to as low a point as in summer 2021, and cases are as low,” State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters on Wednesday. “This is good progress.”

There are 376 patients hospitalized with the virus statewide, and in Spokane County there are 15 patients with the virus hospitalized.

BA.2 is more contagious than the original omicron strain, but so far it appears to not be affecting case counts or hospitalizations, state health officials said, although they are monitoring data to ensure that trend stays steady.

In other countries and a few regions in the United States, BA.2 appears to be leading to a slight uptick in cases.

BA.2 made up 51% of all virus samples sequenced in mid-March, while the original omicron strain represented the rest of the samples.

Second booster dose recommended for someThis week the Food and Drug Administration and then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended second booster doses for people older than 50, at least four months after their first booster dose.

Both moderately and severely immunocompromised people also qualify for another booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Boosters were effective in preventing death during the omicron wave, according to the CDC, which found that boosted people were 21 times less likely to die from the virus and seven times less likely to be hospitalized than people who are unvaccinated.

State health officials are encouraging Washington residents to stay up to date on their COVID vaccinations, even though case counts are now low.

Of those people who are eligible for boosters statewide, 58% have received their first booster dose. That percentage increases in older Washington residents who have been vaccinated, state health officials told reporters this week. Of 50- to 64-year-olds who are eligible, 64% have been boosted; 75% of people 65 and older who are eligible have been boosted.

“We’re particularly interested in the populations who are most at-risk for severe disease, and seniors: those are the populations that we want to make sure if they haven’t gotten vaccinated, to get vaccinated,” Shah said.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 22 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Thursday.

There are 15 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District reported six new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths.

There are 30 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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