Health officials warn of omicron subvariant BA.5

CHARLOTTE — Local health officials said Wednesday that they’re seeing another spike in COVID-19 cases due to the new subvariant, BA.5.

Most counties in the Channel 9 viewing area have a COVID-19 threat level of medium.

Health experts explains their concerns and how we should respond to these increased cases.

“We are seeing an increase in cases in our community and we’ve seen a bit of an uptick in hospitalizations for people with Covid,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti with Atrium Health. “We never came down from the last mini-surge and we’re adding on top of that.”

Passaretti warned the new strain is having more of an impact than some past strains.

“BA.5, from what we know so far, does have more immune escape, which means you’re more at risk of getting infected again,” the doctor said.

She said vaccines are still effective in preventing serious illness and symptoms are mostly mild.

People should pay attention to community spread in their area.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people in those areas who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe disease should talk to their health care providers about the need for masking or other precautions.

Pasarretti also warns people to remember personal hygiene and to help prevent the spread in their workplaces.

“We need a societal change on working while sick, people with mild symptoms, coming to work,” she said. “Workplaces should make sure they support people staying home when they’re sick. So you don’t feel forced to come into work when you’re sick and that just kind of perpetuates spread.”

People under 50 should be eligible for a second booster.

The White House said it’s the most transmissible form of the virus yet, possibly causing two of every three new cases.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering making a second booster available to more Americans.

Officials are also urging people to get vaccinated and wear a mask, but those precautions haven’t stopped COVID-19 fully because it mutates.

A University of North Carolina doctor said that means that regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated, boosted, or even had COVID-19 before, it’s not enough to rule out other infections.

“All that immunity makes it harder and harder for the previous versions of omicron and previous versions of COVID-19 to spread. It just hits a dead end. So it has to mutate and it does once in a while. And every once in a while a mutant comes along that can get around this wall,” said Dr. David Wohl.

He did say he’s optimistic because intensive care units are not filling up like they did at the start of the pandemic. He said it shows we’re gaining ground on the virus.

(WATCH BELOW: BA.2 coronavirus variant: What you need to know)