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Health expert weighs in on BA.5 COVID variant cases

The new variant is responsible for 60% of new infections, according to the CDC.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A new variant is fueling an increase in COVID cases across the US. 

According to the CDC, the BA.5 omicron subvariant is now the dominant strain, accounting for 60% of all new infections.

Geoffrey Roche, a Population Health Team faculty member at Harrisburg University says the variant appears more contagious but does not lead to more serious illness.

“Particularly, when we’ve seen other variants, we’ve seen more hospitalizations," said Roche. "In this case, we’re seeing more spread and cases, but not necessarily the same level of hospitalizations.”

Cities like Los Angeles and New York have seen the sharpest increases in COVID cases in recent weeks, while Pennsylvania has only seen a slight increase. 

While cases are increasing due to BA.5, Roche says cases are not likely to return to numbers previously seen last winter.

“We’re not at a time, in our place with COVID, where we’re concerned about ICU beds and hospitalizations," said Roche. "We’re really more concerned about doing all we can to make sure that people are vaccinated and boosted.”

Roche says as more variants continue to emerge, it is important for Pennsylvanians to continue following appropriate COVID guidelines when it comes to vaccines and masks.

“Do the responsible thing, which is get vaccinated, get boosted, and when appropriate, wear a mask," said Roche. "It doesn’t hurt you and it doesn’t hurt anyone else. It’s all about respecting and appreciating one another.”

Residents who experience symptoms are advised to call their doctor and go get tested.

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