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Stateside Podcast: What to know about omicron BA.5

Coronavirus
DONFIORE / ADOBE STOCK
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More than two years after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Michigan, the virus continues to mutate and spread throughout the state. The overall number of cases has been increasing in the past couple of weeks, likely due to a new subvariant of the virus.

The subvariant is known as omicron BA.5. Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said it is being closely monitored, but the omicron subvariant has not yet surpassed the dominant strains in the state. However, that could change, as it drives an uptick in infections across the country. Here’s what we know so far about BA.5 and what it means for Michigan.

Vaccines are still important 

Although Dr. Bagdasarian noted that the omicron BA.5 variant appears to be more effective at infecting individuals who are vaccinated or have prior immunity, vaccines are still considered quite effective at reducing hospitalization and death in infected individuals. Additionally, those who are eligible for their COVID-19 booster vaccine may consider receiving a booster dose for further protection. The additional protection could be especially important to individuals who are at risk for severe outcomes related to COVID-19, like the elderly or people who are immunocompromised.

Expect to continue normal COVID-19 protocol

Although scientists are still gathering data on the BA.5 variant and its effects, those who are symptomatic or suspect infection should continue to follow standard COVID-19 protocol in order to protect themselves and others. This means getting tested, either at home or at a testing facility. In the event of a positive test, the safest course of action is to isolate yourself and inform anyone who you may have had close contact with about your positive test. Although some testing centers and labs do report their cases to the state of Michigan in order to collect data on COVID-19 cases, it is no longer necessary to report a positive result from an at-home test in Michigan.

Currently, the recommended isolation period for individuals who test positive is around five days. However, those who are immunocompromised or at high-risk for complications related to COVID-19 should talk to their healthcare provider about the best option for them. After the five day period is over and symptoms and fever have subsided, most patients can be around others while wearing a mask.

Depending on where you are, it may be smart to mask up again 

Currently, most of the state of Michigan is considered to be at a “low risk level” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, some counties in Michigan with higher rates of transmission are currently considered a “medium risk level.” For individuals who are located in counties with a low risk level, Bagdasarian said, masking in public spaces may not be necessary. She said those living in areas with higher transmission may want to consider wearing a mask depending on their individual risk factors.

“My advice to people is wear a mask. If it makes you feel more comfortable, wear a mask. If there is local guidance or if you're in a setting where masking is encouraged, wear a mask. If you have underlying conditions. If you have a family, a family member or a loved one who has underlying conditions and if you feel more comfortable wearing a mask.”

GUEST:

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive, state of Michigan

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Music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions.

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Anna is a senior at Michigan State University studying journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
Ronia Cabansag is a producer for Stateside. She comes to Michigan Radio from Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a BS in Media Studies & Journalism and English Linguistics with a minor in Computer Science.