Since the start of the new year, states across the country have taken decreasing COVID-19 cases following the January 2022 surge as a signal to ease out of restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of the virus. As a result, many mask mandates for schools, workplaces and other public indoor places have been lifted. Masking became optional here at West Chester University on Feb. 28, spreading the sentiment that it is safe to unmask.
However, development of the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant is reason for concern, considering it has increased in presence within the past few weeks. The Omicron variant first became a prevalent issue in December 2021, creating a surge by January that would prompt the highest number of cases recorded daily since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Since then, the BA.2 variant has only recently become a leading source of cases, despite its existence since November 2021.
According to information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BA.2 represents an average of 72% of all new Covid cases, this being as of April 2, which was the most recent calculation available at the time. Though information on the variant is developing, it is believed to be more contagious than other variants of the virus. However, on that note, it does not seem to yield more severe consequences, such as hospitalizations and deaths, according to an article published by Yale Medicine at the end of March.
Experts on the matter aren’t currently showing excessive concern regarding its potentiality to create a spike in cases. “As the United States drops many of its own protection measures, BA.2 may be able to spread more easily from person to person. But there are a number of reasons to doubt that it will drive a large new spike of cases and hospitalizations,” stated an article published in the New York Times by journalist Carl Zimmer. These reasons include current vaccines’ effectiveness against the variant, booster shots available to the public, and individuals who already had Omicron having decreased susceptibility to catching it again.
When observing the situation at a national scale, the United States’ Covid count has been fluctuating within the past few weeks. According to data recorded on April 6 by the CDC, the seven-day average at the time was 26,596 new cases a day. This number showed a 4.9% increase from the previous week, which was 25,363 cases.
This recent trend contrasted with weeks prior, which had displayed a leveling-out in cases throughout March.
Similar trends are evident in the state of Pennsylvania specifically. As represented in the New York Times Covid data dashboard, a daily average of 737 cases was recorded on April 7, which reflected a positive 18% change compared to 14 days prior. Luckily, however, records of death, hospitalizations and I.C.U. treatment has been decreasing significantly.
Though some Pennsylvania counties have been experiencing decreasing rates, many have not, including Chester County. Though the daily average clocked in at 39 cases on April 7, which is relatively low compared to prior surges, this displayed about a 46% increase compared to 14 days before.
With many areas across the country relaxing their Covid restrictions, it is hard to foresee the future Covid situation, considering the heightened presence of the BA.2 variant. Despite case numbers reducing following the January surge, the virus still remains a constant issue as we deal with the variant in the coming weeks.
Olivia Schlinkman is a first-year Psychology major with a minor in Studio Arts. OS969352@wcupa.edu