Former NYC Health Advisor Dr. Jay Varma Says New Wave of COVID-19 Begins, ‘Worst Version’ of Omicron – NBC New York (47)

NEW YORK — The BA.5 subvariant, first seen in South Africa and then in Portugal, is considered by some experts to be the “worst version” of Ómicron seen so far, given its apparent ability to escape previous immunity and transmit more easily.

Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist at Weill Cornell and former senior public health adviser to then-Mayor Bill de Blasio during the pandemic, said infections appear to have stabilized at a high level in the city, rather than going down.

“The decline in reported #COVID19 cases in New York City has stopped. Reported cases are at a high level, meaning actual transmission is very high when taking into account the undercount of > 20 times. This is probably the start of a BA.5 wave,” Varma tweeted.

Transmission rates in the city hit a two-month low last week but have since started to rise. The health department’s own tests say BA.5 accounts for 17% of infections, but that data is nearly two weeks old now. Nationwide, CDC data pins BA.5 in nearly 37% of cases.

“Experience from other countries means there will be another big spike in #COVID19 infections in New York City, even among those who have had #Omicron in recent months,” Varma added.

He noted that it is not yet clear what a BA.5 wave would mean for hospitalizations and deaths. Citywide COVID hospitalizations and deaths have steadily declined and are at two-month lows.

The question now, he said, is whether the boosters that worked against the BA.1 subvariant six months ago will have any effect against BA.5.

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