What to Know
- 'Stealth omicron' is now responsible for more than 50% of COVID cases in the Midwest, per CDC estimates
- Evidence suggests the BA.2 subvariant is more contagious, but doesn't cause more severe illness
- Illinois has seen cases increase by 10% in the last seven days, although it's unclear if BA.2 is driving that figure
According to new estimates released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19, otherwise known as “stealth omicron,” is now the dominant strain of the virus in the Midwest and in the United States.
The data, released Tuesday, reflects estimates of COVID cases diagnosed between March 19 and March 26, according to the CDC’s website.
Those estimates peg the percentage of BA.2 cases at 50.4% of all COVID cases in a six-state region of the Midwest that includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. In the United States as a whole, the CDC estimates that 54.9% of all COVID cases are tied to the “stealth omicron” variant.
Experts have said that they believed that the BA.2 subvariant would ultimately become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States, following a pattern set in China, Israel, and parts of Europe, all of whom are seeing increases in COVID cases due to the variant.
While cases nationwide have begun to rise in recent weeks, case numbers in the state of Illinois have remained largely stable. As of Tuesday, the state is averaging 1,178 new cases of COVID per day, an increase of 10% in the last week.
Hospitalizations remain near record lows, as do ICU admissions because of COVID, but officials say they will continue monitoring COVID trends in the event that a significant uptick in cases is observed.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, says that he does not anticipate another surge in cases, but says that the new subvariant could cause COVID cases to rise in coming weeks.
According to the U.K. Health Security Agency, the BA.2 subvariant spreads approximately 75% faster than the earlier version of omicron, BA.1. Even still, spikes in cases in the U.K. and Germany caused by the variant have already begun to roll back.
Experts also suggest that BA.2 does not make people sicker than previous strains of the omicron variant, according to data from South Africa and the U.K.