WUPHD Confirms New Omicron Sub-Variant is in the Western Upper Peninsula

An increasing number of COVID cases in Michigan are comprised of a second sub-variant. Omicron BA.2, as of last week, accounted for 99 new infections in Michigan. The second omicron variant has been found in Detroit and twenty one counties. Western Upper Peninsula Health Department Chief Health Officer, Kate Beer, says that the department is monitoring what is going on in other parts of the state, and the variant is something for the public to be aware of.

“We are continuing to monitor local health care capacity, local rates. We are continuing to monitor any outbreaks that have occurred. We are continuing to monitor waste water samples, those kinds of things, to just get ahead of it. If we do see another spike.” – Kate Beer, Chief Health Officer, WUPHD

BA.2 is considered more transmissible than the original omicron strain, which increased cases around the country and Michigan dramatically. During the omicron surge, Michigan averaged 17,000 new cases daily. Since that surge Michigan’s daily case count has dropped to around 645 per day. Much like the original omicron strain, BA.2, is less likely to attack the lungs.

“Data is still coming forward on those variants right now. We have confirmed that, we have the BA.2 variant in Baraga and Houghton counties at this point. So it’s a little bit like the other variants, we just don’t have quite all the information yet. It looks like it is very contagious. However we don’t have enough samples in yet to determine if we have a large number of it in our area.” – Kate Beer, Chief Health Officer, WUPHD

Experts also note that the vaccine is holding up to the new sub-variant, and helping people to avoid hospitalization or severe illness. The majority of the BA.2 infections in Michigan are occurring in Detroit’s surrounding counties. The CDC says Omicron BA.2 is classified as a variant of concern. Beer added that communities will need to continue mask practices when in indoor gathering areas and large crowded spaces.