Opinion: Meet the new highly contagious variant of COVID-19 — BA.5

Jul 15, 2022, 3:00 PM | Updated: Nov 16, 2022, 2:48 pm
new variant...
FILE: In this photo illustration, an at-home COVID-19 test by Abbott shows a positive result. (Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo Illustration by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — Do you know anyone who has COVID 19 right now? They may have avoided it this whole time and are only now experiencing the cough and exhaustion that often accompany the virus.

Well, that was me! I was secretly proud of myself for not catching it these last two-plus years. I wore my mask diligently, got my vaccine and booster, and I’ve been back to work like normal for well over a year now with no problem.

Until three weeks ago. Bam! Fever, cough, elephant sitting on my chest, too tired to read.

Meet the new variant of COVID-19 — BA.5

The new subvariant of COVID-19 spreads fast. It’s called BA.5.

“It is the most transmissible, the most contagious, meaning you are at greater odds of getting Covid from this one if you haven’t had it in the past,” Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious diseases physician at South Shore Health in Weymouth, Massachusetts, told me this morning on Utah’s Morning News.

Well, that explains my getting sick, I guess.

There are some unique things about the new variant that we should know. “It’s considered partially immune evasive,” Dr. Wildes said. “Which means that if you’ve been vaccinated and boosted, or you’ve had Covid in the past, you may not get as much protection from your infection or from your vaccines as we’ve seen with other variants.”

However, the doctor reminded me that vaccines still prevent severe illness and death, even if they don’t keep us from getting COVID-19 altogether, and are important for you and your family.

Pharmaceutical companies are developing vaccine boosters that address some of the BA.5 issues, but Dr. Wildes said they likely won’t be ready until the fall. Current booster recommendations are for people over 50 and those with weakened immune systems.

No need for mask mandates yet, except in Los Angeles

Infections are going up with BA.5 in Utah and around the country. Does that mean we’re going back to mask mandates?  “In some places, yes,” Dr. Wildes believes. “In particular, in Los Angeles County the cases have been really elevated. Based on the CDC guidelines, they meet the criteria. Unless their numbers turn around drastically, they’re going to be headed for universal masks for indoor spaces.”

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Opinion: Meet the new highly contagious variant of COVID-19 — BA.5