BA.5 is the newest subvariant of the Omicron variant, and it has become the dominant cause of COVID-19 in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the first week of July 2022, the BA.5 variant made up 65% of viral lineage among COVID-19 infections. COVID-19 cases are slightly on the rise, with the current daily average being 123,365, and the daily average of COVID-19-related deaths being 342.

According to Yale Medicine, the Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana and South Africa in November 2021, although later reports on the variant have shown earlier cases in the Netherlands. The earliest information on the variant said that most cases were mild with different symptoms. 

The CDC confirmed the first Omicron U.S. case in California on Dec. 1, 2021. By the end of December, Omicron became the predominant strain in the U.S. This led to a significant spike in COVID-19 cases across the country in January, with the CDC’s highest daily average being 764,806.

In her article “Omicron and BA.5: A Guide to What We Know,” senior clinical writer Kathy Katella wrote about discovering several Omicron variants. 

“When they first started to study Omicron, scientists were concerned about a key distinguishing factor in the variant. Unlike Delta and other coronavirus variants, it carries an abundance of mutations—about 50 in all, including 26 that are unique to the variant—and more than 30 on the spike protein, which is the viral protein that vaccines train the immune system to recognize and attack.”

Since the uptick in January, cases in the U.S. have been steadily decreasing. However, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants play a significant part in the current progression of the virus. Scientists are still working to see if these subvariants can cause more disease than the previous variants.

In Georgia, 21 counties are dealing with high transmission of COVID-19 cases due to the BA.5 variant. These counties are Berrien, Brooks, Camden, Clinch, Cobb, Colquitt, Coweta, Douglas, Grady, Lanier, Lowndes, Mitchell, Muscogee, Paulding, Pierce, Quitman, Spalding, Stewart, Terell, Thomas and Turner. 

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), in the last two weeks, there were 34,466 confirmed cases in Georgia. This information doesn’t even count the number of people taking antigen tests at home and not reporting the results.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and all its variants, the CDC recommends being up to date on vaccinations, wearing masks in areas with high COVID-19 community levels and getting tested and reporting your test results.