New Omicron Variant BA.2.12.1 Now Dominant In New York, Driving Infections; Strain Up 47% Nationwide In Past Week

In February, New York State Health officials identified a small number of new Covid cases related to a new, even more infectious subvariant of Omicron BA.2. Dubbed BA.2.12.1, it made up only 3% of all new cases in the state for that month. Figures released today by the CDC indicate that in the past eight weeks BA.2.12.1 has not only outcompeted BA.2 in terms of growth, but it has now become the dominant variant in the region made up of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The CDC data indicates that BA.12.2 now accounts for 58% of new cases in the region. In New York State, its share is much higher.

By April 20, the new Omicron subvariant was the cause of about 76% of new cases in Central New York. By the end of the month, according to New York State, “Data for April indicate that levels in Central New York are now above 90%.”

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The New York State Department of Public Health indicated last week that “in April BA.2.12.1 also represented >50% of sequences in the Finger Lakes region, and >25% of sequences in Capital Region, Mohawk Valley, and Southern Tier regions, based on sequences through April 20, 2022.”

Cases and test positivity have also risen with the growth of BA.2.12.1. On March 13, New York reported 902 positive tests and a 1.4% 7-day rolling test positivity rate. Today, the state reported that rate had grown to 6.8% and new cases to 4,786. Nationally, the variant has also spread quickly, though more slowly than in New York, where it was first identified.

Nationwide, BA.2.12.1 drove 28% of all new cases, according to the CDC data released today. That’s up from 19% the week before, meaning the variant’s share of new cases in the U.S. rose 47% in one week.

The biggest question about the rise of BA.2.12.1 is whether it will also drive hospitalizations, which could then increase the number of deaths. So far, Covid-related hospitalizations have increased in New York State, from 817 on March 29 to 1,588 today, but that’s a much less step rise than the state saw in cases and test positivity. It’s also a far cry from the nearly 19,000 Covid-related hospitalizations seen at the peak of the spring 2020 surge.

There is hope that the new variant is less virulent and that — coupled with increased vaccination rates and testing — will keep the more terminal figures from rising. Since hospitalizations generally lag infections by about 14 days, New York’s hospitalization data next week could tell the tale.

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