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New York state health officials report emergence of 2 highly contagious Omicron subvariants

Centers for Disease Control

The New York State Department of Health said on Wednesday that two subvariants of the Omicron COVID-19 variant have been identified in the state, and are highly contagious.

The Omicron subvariant, BA.2, now accounts for more than 80% of COVID-19 infections in New York state.

State health officials said that two new subvariants, known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, are able to spread more rapidly than the original BA.2 variant, but at this time, officials said there is no evidence of more severe disease due to the newly-discovered subvariants.

“We are alerting the public to two Omicron subvariants, newly emerged and rapidly spreading in upstate New York, so New Yorkers can act swiftly,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “While these subvariants are new, the tools to combat them are not. These tools will work if we each use them: get fully vaccinated and boosted, test following exposure, symptoms, or travel, consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, and consult with your healthcare provider about treatment if you test positive.”

The health department said that the new subvariants now likely represent more than 90% of new cases in Central New York, and more than 20% in the Finger Lakes region (which includes the Rochester area).

The CDC recommends that adults 50 and older and younger adults with medical conditions get another booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

But on WXXI’s Connections with Evan Dawson program on Wednesday, Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Michael Mendoza, said that we gained more from the first booster than we stand to gain from a second.

“It's not the kind of thing where I'm going to say to everybody go get your booster, your second booster today, I think there is more to think about...”

Mendoza says that includes personal calculations.

“Individual assessment of risk- your own tolerance for risk your own behavior, what you're going to be comfortable in what you find convenient, those kinds of factors matter more now, I think than they had in previous surges,” Mendoza said.

The county health commissioner recommends speaking with your health care provider before making a decision.

The numbers of COVID-19 infections have been rising in various regions of the state. On Wednesday, Monroe County reported 695 additional reported infections, with a 7-day rolling average of 513 cases per day.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.