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COVID-19 BA.5 variant growing concern: How quickly is it spreading in New York?

Experts say another round of COVID-19 booster shots may be needed if the BA.5 variant continues to move.

Coronavirus infections are low and mask restrictions are few-and-far between. Hospitalizations have also been declining for the last several months.

So, why are health experts concerned about COVID-19 in New York?

Scientists have two reasons for concern.

The first involves the way in which overall numbers have flattened at a higher level or ‘plateau’. Throughout the pandemic ‘waves’ were to blame for surges of COVID. Similarly, the low end of those waves delivered a reprieve from the virus.

The data shows that the number of infections has plateaued, but it happened at a higher rate, which means there’s still more COVID out there than many health experts hoped.

The second reason for concern is a new wave connected to the BA.5 variant. Scientists say the BA.4 and BA.5 variants are more challenging to identify early, which leads to some concern about another surge.

“At a minimum, can be confident predicting that BA.5 will lead to more days when people are out of work, kids home from school/camp, & more people suffering from #LongCOVID,” Dr. Jay Varma, a Weill Cornell epidemiologist who advised former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet about it.

BA.5 first appeared in South Africa. Experts say it bypasses immunity more easily and is more contagious.

How quickly is BA.5 spreading?

A month ago BA.4 and BA.5 made up 2% of total cases in New York City. Now, nearly 28% of cases have been identified as BA.4 and/or BA.5.