COVID cases in California are leveling off, but here’s how BA.2 variant might change that

After more than two months of dramatic decline, COVID-19 cases are leveling off in the Bay Area and most of California while the BA.2 coronavirus subvariant supplants omicron as the dominant strain circulating in the western United States.

BA.2 now makes up roughly half of cases nationally and 60% of COVID cases in the western region, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released its latest variant analysis on Tuesday. Health officials said they do not yet know what impact the highly transmissible BA.2 will have on cases – or subsequent hospitalization and death rates – in the weeks to come, especially in well-vaccinated places like the Bay Area. California officials hoped to see cases continue dropping, perhaps to levels reported last spring and early summer, but they may stabilize or climb again as BA.2 gains traction.

For now, the Bay Area is reporting between 550 and 700 new cases a day across all nine counties, about the same as during the brief lull between last fall’s delta surge and when omicron took over in mid-December. That’s still more than two or three times higher than last spring, when cases dropped below 200 a day.

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