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Coronavirus update: The BA.5 variant becomes dominant

The FDA is authorizing a new vaccine

COVID-19 Omicron BA.5 variant concept
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COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 89,225,558 (88,947,827)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,023,635 (1,021,853)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 559,652,282 (557,824,287)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,363,656 (6,356,013)‌

BA.5 becomes the dominant strain

COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in wide areas of the U.S., and health officials say BA.5, a subvariant of the Omicron variant, is mostly responsible. The subvariant is highly transmissible, and people in areas of high infection are being urged to wear masks when indoors.

COVID-19 cases that were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) so far this month rose by nearly 30%, and scientists say BA.5 and its twin, BA.4, appear to be driving the numbers higher in both the U.S. and Europe.

Health officials say the spread of the subvariants has resulted in an increase in new cases, but they say most of the cases appear to produce mild to moderate symptoms. They say hospitalizations have risen, but not like in previous COVID-19 waves.

FDA authorizes Novavax vaccine

There are now four COVID-19 vaccines that can be used in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for use in adults aged 18 and older.

“Authorizing an additional COVID-19 vaccine expands the available vaccine options for the prevention of COVID-19, including the most severe outcomes that can occur, such as hospitalization and death,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf.

Seniors urged to get a second booster shot

White House officials who are managing the COVID-19 response are urging Americans who are 50 years old or older to get a second booster shot.

"If you have not gotten a vaccine shot in the year 2022, if you have not gotten one this year, please go get another vaccine shot," said response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. "It could save your life."

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Six counties have now been classified as having a “high” risk of COVID-19 transmission. Health officials recommend that people in Morris, Monmouth, Burlington, Camden, Atlantic, and Cape May counties wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. 

  • New York: Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced a new free hotline for those who test positive for COVID-19 but don't have a health care provider. "We've made real progress in our fight against COVID-19, but as new variants continue to spread it's important to continue to adapt and expand our efforts to protect New Yorkers," Hochul said. 

  • Colorado: After a string of days with no COVID-19 patients, Rose Medical Center reports that hospitalizations are increasing again. But doctors say it appears to be manageable. "I think we're settling into kind of a new normal. COVID's here to stay for a while," said Dr. Andrew Weinfeld, the hospital’s chief medical officer. "We expect it. There's much less surprise about it."

  • Virginia: Gov. Glenn Youngkin and four members of the Virginia congressional delegation report that they have heard nothing from the Defense Department after they asked the Pentagon to stop the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for members of the state National Guard. The state officials say National Guard readiness could be impacted if troops quit or get kicked out.

  • Illinois: The Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy is reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases among its residents and staff. Tests this week found 16 residents and 10 staff members who had the virus. Most of the positive residents had mild symptoms.

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