Austin Public Health has found two new omicron COVID-19 variants in Travis County. On Friday, the two variants — known as BA.4 and BA.5 — combined to account for about 6% of COVID-19 infections in the United States.
Most COVID-19 infections in Travis County and the United States are still BA.2 or omicron stealth, a subvariant of the original omicron from last winter.
COVID cases in Travis County have also increased. On Friday, Austin Public Health reported a transmission rate of 174.81 cases per 100,000 people. If that number reaches 200, Travis County will go from low community spread to medium community spread according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions metric.
“These growing numbers and new subvariants are very concerning, especially at a time when many will be traveling and reuniting with loved ones,” Dr. Desmar Walkes of the Austin-Travis County Health Authority said Friday. .
After:COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. There are 3 main reasons for this.
What are the BA.4 and BA.5 variants?
The BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants caused an increase in cases this spring in Europe and South Africa.
They appear to be more transmissible than the original omicron, which was more transmissible than Delta, which was more transmissible than Alpha and Beta, which was more transmissible than the original Spring 2020 COVID-19.
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention also notes that these new omicron subvariants also appear to evade natural immunity in people given the original omicron, but the subvariants do not appear to cause more serious infection. The ECDC expects these sub-variants to become the dominant strains in Europe in the coming months.
Understanding variants:What we now know about the omicron COVID-19 variant
What does it mean to go from low to medium community spread?
The CDC updates community spread levels weekly. In Centeal Texas, Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Burnet counties are still low. Caldwell County is now at the medium level.
Here’s what the tiers mean to you:
For people up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines:
Down: Taking precautions is optional when collecting, eating and shopping.
Medium: Precautions are optional when gathering, eating and shopping. But wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.
High: Be careful when gathering, dining and shopping.
For those at high risk:
Down: Precautions are optional when gathering, eating and shopping.
Medium: Be careful when gathering, dining and shopping.
High: Be careful when gathering, dining and shopping.
Precautions include wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding crowded situations.
Travis County has seen its transmission rates rise steadily since March 16, when it was at a low of 30.2 cases per 100,000 people. By May 12, that number had risen to 118 cases per 100,000. As of May 26, it was at 169.9 cases.
The good thing about the stealth omicron: our hospitalizations remained manageable. Currently, new admissions for people with COVID-19 are 14, with 45 people in hospital, nine in intensive care and one person on a ventilator.
Understanding new levels:Austin Public Health removes local COVID steps and aligns guidance with CDC
Why is Community Broadcast changing?
More people are gathering again. Think of all the graduations and end-of-school celebrations, as well as Memorial Day and other summer events that are starting to happen. Fewer and fewer people are wearing masks in public spaces.
Each variant was also more transmissible, according to health care experts.
What can we do to control the spread?
“We need everyone vaccinated and reinforced, especially children who are now eligible for boosters,” Walkes said. “Masks also provide an extra layer of protection for yourself and others.”
Anyone 5 years of age and older is eligible for vaccination and a booster five months after their initial round (two doses for mRNA vaccines for most people, three doses for immunocompromised people). Adults age 50 and older can receive a second booster four months after their first booster.
We need to keep up with vaccination, said Dr. Donald Murphey, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Dell Children’s Medical Center in central Texas, because “COVID is not just one wave. There is no lasting immunity, and the virus is changing. It really is a particularly difficult virus. There is more to come.
Vaccinations can help prevent serious illness and death, experts say. That’s really the point of vaccines: to prevent hospitalizations and deaths, while keeping our hospitals accessible to non-COVID-19 patients.
“It happens with the flu shot,” Murphey said. “It may not prevent you from catching the flu, but it will prevent hospitalizations and deaths.”
It is never too late to start vaccinations or resume the vaccination schedule.
Most pharmacies have many COVID-19 vaccines available. Austin Public Health has its walk-in site at Old Sims Elementary Gymnasium, 1203 Springdale Road, from 2-7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. COVID-19 vaccinations are free.
The future of COVID-19:When will COVID-19 be over? How Austin doctors and scientists are predicting the future of the pandemic
Should I wear a mask?
CDC guidelines suggest you assess your own risk factors such as other health conditions you may have, who is in your life and their health issues, and levels of community spread.
Currently, at low levels, precautions such as masking are optional. If we move to the medium level, then masks will be encouraged in public spaces and strongly recommended when social distancing is not possible.
You can get free N95 masks at most local pharmacies or go to cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/free-masks.html to find out where you can get masks.
Understanding Masks:N95, KN95, KF94, Surgical: Know the types of masks and why cloth masks came out for omicron
Should I test?
If you don’t feel well, even though you think it’s allergies, go ahead and do a self-test. You can get free tests, even if you’ve already received a set, through the federal government. Austin Public Health also distributes them at the Metz Elementary testing site.
If you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive, you should self-isolate for five days and test again to make sure you are negative on day five. If you test positive, quarantine it for five days and then test negative.
Know your tests:Is your home COVID-19 test real? Know how to spot counterfeits and where to find tests
When will children 4 and under receive their vaccine?
It’s coming soon. The FDA is set to meet about Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for young children on June 14-15. Then the CDC committee will meet.
Get boosted:Should your child get the COVID-19 reminder? Central Texas experts step in
If approved by both the FDA and the CDC, these vaccines will cover everyone 6 months and older. Newborn babies can get some immunity from their mother’s vaccination during pregnancy.