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COVID Virus Fueling Fifth Wave in the United States


COVID cases in the United States are rising, and experts say the country could be entering a fifth wave of the virus.

Last week, COVID cases in Illinois went up by 40%, and hospitalizations have slowly increased. In recent weeks, the new Omicron subvariant fueled COVID cases on the East Coast. Many counties are now considered at a high community level, with officials raising alerts imploring residents to avoid getting sick.

According to CDC data, four Illinois counties are currently at the medium community level of the virus, including Cook County. Illinois State is now averaging 5,154 new cases daily, a 41.6% increase from last week and 180% last month. Hospitalizations increased by 5% last week, with 777 patients testing positive for COVID.

Those hospitalization trends and the 73% state fully vaccinated residents give officials some hope to avoid a potential lockdown resulting from a massive surge. Still, there are concerns that the trend will continue upward in the coming weeks.

Chicago health officials are not issuing a new mandate about wearing masks in indoor places. But, if counties go into high community levels of the virus, those mandates could line up with CDC guidelines.

New York Region

According to the new CDC data, a COVID-19 subvariant calculated by health officials to be more infectious than the first Omicron strain currently accounts for over 60% of all viruses spreading in the New York area.

The prevalence of BA.2.12.1, which health officials say to be 27% more contagious than BA.2, has been rising at a speedier rate. Since last February, hospitalization rates followed, outperforming 2,000 for the first time.

While the BA.2.12.1 subvariant only accounts for about 28% of cases in New England, that number has been climbing steadily.
There is no scientific proof linking BA.2.12.1 to other intense COVID illnesses or reduced vaccine efficacy. But, the high transmissibility appears clear. Could we see a wave in cases of the subvariant that could drive cases and hospitalizations up dramatically once again?

Massachusetts COVID Metrics

Courtesy of Hughes SongeFollow (Flickr CC0)

Since the Omicron wave, Massachusetts’ COVID metrics have dropped, but case calculations are increasing again.
Health officers declared 2,985 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 14 further casualties. The state’s seven-day average rate rose to 5.79% Wednesday, compared to 5.63% on Tuesday.

Last week, COVID levels in wastewater were slightly down, but those levels were on the rise again, so the trend has not been consistent.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, Chief of Infectious Disease, concurred that it’s hard to say whether what’s occurring in New York will be seen here.

It is not easy to foresee if the additional Omicron subvariant will spike cases in Massachusetts. But, with an uptick in cases, positivity rate, and hospitalizations, it’s hard to determine if there are unreported cases from home testing.

Although the Omicron sub-variants behave like Omicron in disease severity, the variants vary in infectiousness. Experts agree it’s difficult to predict what the virus will do, but they should be paying close attention to it.

While there is limited information about the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, it seems more transmissible than the BA.2 subvariant. Vigilance in gathering more information about this subvariant as additional subordinate variants may be causing surges in other parts of the world.

The subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 circulating in South Africa and Europe are less transmissible than BA.2.12.1 but more contagious than BA.2. As people come down from the Delta wave, BA.4 and BA.5 could spread and generate another Omicron wave.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson


NBC Chicago: Chicago-Area Officials Say U.S. Could be Seeing Fifth Wave of COVID as Cases Increase
NBC Boston: Most Contagious COVID Subvariant Yet Fueling 5th Wave in NY. Could We Be Next?; by Marc Fortier and Mary Markos
Good Word News: Chicago-area officials say US could see fifth wave of COVID as cases rise; by Sara Adm

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Nenad Stojkovic’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Hughes Songe’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


Cathrine Osborne, DM

Infectious Disease Physician

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