A new strain of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Santa Clara County, but details about its transmissibility are scarce.
Santa Clara County officials confirmed a strain known as BA.2 has been found in two people in the county. In a video shared with San José Spotlight, Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. George Han said BA.2 is considered a sub-variant of omicron.
“Because it’s so much less common, we don’t know that much about it,” Han said. “From what we can tell, early indications show it behaves just like the BA.1 omicron (variant).”
Han did not have any information about how the individuals got infected or where in the county the infections were found. He said it’s also unclear if this new strain will be labeled a variant of concern, which is how the World Health Organization generally labels viruses considered more infectious or severe. He said the county will continue monitoring the BA.2 sub-variant.
State officials have reportedly identified 11 BA.2 infections as of Tuesday. Santa Clara County’s most recent seven-day rolling average is 3,903 infections, down from previous weeks. To date, 1,976 people have died from COVID-19 in the county. Approximately 83.3% of residents of all ages are fully vaccinated and 62.8% of people over the age of 12 have received a booster dose.
Over the past few weeks, Santa Clara County has tried to cope with the surge in cases caused by omicron, which exploded in early January following a spike in holiday travel. Public health officials have warned emergency rooms and COVID testing sites are struggling to meet the surge in demand for tests. Lawmakers want to expand testing options for residents, and county workers started distributing tens of thousands of rapid antigen test kits last week. The county also recently mandated booster doses for its employees who work in high-risk settings.
George Rutherford, a UC San Francisco professor of epidemiology, told San José Spotlight there’s nothing to immediately indicate the BA.2 sub-variant is concerning.
“We obviously have to do studies, but right now it’s just a part of the (omicron) lineage,” he said. “Nothing to get particularly excited about.”