Bello and Mendoza: Omicron BA.2 subvariant is in Monroe County

[anvplayer video=”5098172″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The highly contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant is in Monroe County according to Monroe County Executive Adam Bello and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza.

In a joint statement sent to media Wednesday, the two said they are reporting 108 new lab-confirmed cases and 111 new positive home test results, making Wednesday the second day in a row that the county reported more than 200 COVID cases in one day.

Bello and Mendoza said in the statement they expect the upward trend to continue, and that this is not a cause for panic because most people who have been vaccinated and boosted, or who have previously been infected with COVID are unlikely to become severely ill.

Their statement included the following advice for Monroe County residents:

  • Anyone who is eligible, but not yet vaccinated or boosted, should get immunized now.
  • Individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness should consider wearing an N95 or KN95 mask when in public spaces and maintain social distancing as much as possible.
  • Stay home if you are sick and get tested for COVID-19.

The full statement is below (mobile users, click here):

03.23.22JointStatement by News10NBC on Scribd

News10NBC talked to Rochester Regional Health Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Emil Lesho about the new subvariant and what he thinks you need to know.

The first thing doctors are telling everyone is, do not panic. While the BA.2 subvariant is more contagious than the omicron variant, it doesn’t appear to be more serious.

"It’s just that this was the first confirmed case. Laboratory confirmed case," Lesho said.

Last week the number of positive flu cases surged for the first time in almost two years. COVID’s latest spike in numbers is now being pushed by the new BA.2 subvariant. Lesho said news of the subvariant is not surprising.

"We expected to follow a similar trajectory as the previous omicron variant and the delta. The two contagious variants that you know kind of replace the existing variants," Lesho said.

Doctors are keeping a close eye on BA.2, and have learned that it’s more contagious than the original omicron.

"So if you’re fully vaccinated, and boosted you have great degree of protection. If you’re not you know it’s another reminder that it’s important to get vaccinated," Lesho said.

Wednesday Monroe County confirmed that BA.2 is in our area.

"Often time these samples are pooled so the sample will have gone to the referral lab, and then it takes a while to link the results back to the patient. So it could be an outpatient. It could be a hospitalized patient. Will know that you know in the next couple of days," Lesho said.

He went on to say, the uptick could be related to the relaxing of personal protective measures, the waning of past immunity, and the increase contagiousness of BA.2 itself. There’s a bit of good news though.

"At this point, we’re not seeing an uptick in hospitalizations yet, but again the preliminary reports show that it’s not really more severe. It’s just more contagious," Lesho said.