Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Wednesday he was told by state health officials the county is the first in New York to have confirmed cases caused a new BA.2 omicron subvariant.
The subvariant, known as BA.2.12, is responsible for more than 90% of infections in the Northeast, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The subvariant BA.2 is 40% more contagious than the original strand of omicron that swept through New York and the country in the beginning of winter. BA.2.12 is even more contagious than that, McMahon said.
Central New York has had COVID-19 case counts higher than other parts of the state for the last two weeks or so.
“So this is something that’s going to go through New York, it’s going to go through the Northeast, so we all need to get reengaged and take advantage of the tools available," McMahon said.
He also said contact tracing is not as in-depth as it used to be, so it’s hard to have an exact reason for the spread but travel seems to be the likely culprit.
“There was a level of concentrated cases in a specific geography and then those geographic towns boarded Oswego County," McMahon said.
As of Wednesday, there are currently 486 active cases in Onondaga County, with 219 of those reported from at-home tests. That’s 49 fewer than the 535 reported on April 8.
Current hospitalizations in the county stand at 74, six fewer than Monday’s number. The highest number of county hospitalizations this year was 257 in January. McMahon also reported two more deaths.
“The hospitalizations have increased, but statistically, they’re not as significant as we’ve seen before, so I think with everything we’re doing, we’re doing OK," McMahon said.
McMahon said with the more contagious subvariant in the county, hospitalizations may increase.
“I think if you see a sustained level of over 500 cases between the at-homes and the labs, you’ll probably see [hospitalizations] go up again to another level, but my anticipation between 26 months of experience and watching this every day is that you’ll see between 55 and 88. That will be the new threshold at this level of transmission," McMahon said.
He and Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta said there are various tools to recommended to prevent the spread and keep hospitalizations low, including masking indoors, holding gatherings outdoors, vaccination, at-home testing and medications available to treat COVID-19.
“You call me and I’m your doctor and you got COVID, and then you will explain your situation to me, and depending on your symptoms, I’m going to say, ‘OK if are otherwise healthy and have minimal symptoms, you will not be most likely going in that direction to be hospitalized,'" Gupta said.
The county offers free at-home tests and masks.