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CDC: New Omicron Subvariant BA.2.12.1 Takes Over as Dominant Coronavirus Strain

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 5/24/2022 Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder
A medical worker collects a swab sample from a man at a COVID-19 testing site on Times Square in New York, the United States, May 17, 2022. (Photo by Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images) © (Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images) A medical worker collects a swab sample from a man at a COVID-19 testing site on Times Square in New York, the United States, May 17, 2022. (Photo by Wang Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images)

A highly contagious subvariant of omicron has taken over as the dominant strain circulating in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

BA.2.12.1 was responsible for 58% of recorded new coronavirus cases last week, according to the updated data. That’s up from 49% of infections the week prior.

The omicron subvariant takes the spot over from another omicron subvariant, BA.2, or “stealth omicron.” That strain dropped to 39% of new infections last week.

BA.2.12.1 is believed to be about 25% more transmissible than BA.2, but there are no signs yet that it causes more severe disease.

The development comes as coronavirus cases are increasing in the U.S., but mitigation measures have largely fallen by the wayside. According to a recent Gallup survey, more than a third of Americans believe that the pandemic is over.


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The U.S. is averaging over 100,000 new coronavirus infections each day. It’s just a fraction of the surge seen during the winter omicron wave, which peaked at an average of over 800,000 new cases each day in January.

Still, it’s a significant increase from two months ago, when new cases were averaging 27,000 per day. And experts believe the current surge is significantly underestimated.

“Depending on which tracker you use, we're at about 100,000 infections a day,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said at a press briefing last week. “And we know that the number of infections is actually substantially higher than that – hard to know exactly how many, but we know that a lot of people are getting diagnosed using home tests.”

Coronavirus deaths, on the other hand, have leveled off at under 300 fatalities per day.

Experts are concerned that waning immunity from both prior infections and vaccines will fuel a surge in the fall and winter. Federal officials have authorized a second booster shot for Americans ages 50 and older in the hopes of increasing protection for the vulnerable, though uptake for the shot has been slow. According to CDC data, just 20% of the age group has received the shot.

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