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According to the agency’s variant monitor, BA.2.12.1 now accounts for 19% of cases.
BA.2 makes up 74.4%, which has been the country’s dominant variant since last month.
While COVID-19 cases have fallen markedly since the winter’s initial omicron surge, BA.2 has picked up across the eastern states.
In New York, health officials reported that BA.212 and BA.2.12.1 were potentially contributing to increased transmission in several regions.
“The New York State Department of Health today announced the emergence of two omicron sub-variants in New York State, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1. Both variants are sub-lineages of BA.2, which now accounts for 80.6% of COVID-19 infections in New York. The sub-variants have been estimated to have a 23% – 27% growth advantage above the original BA.2 variant,” the Department of Health wrote last week.
“We are alerting the public to two omicron sub-variants, newly emerged and rapidly spreading in upstate New York, so New Yorkers can act swiftly,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “While these sub-variants are new, the tools to combat them are not. These tools will work if we each use them: get fully vaccinated and boosted, test following exposure, symptoms, or travel, consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and consult with your healthcare provider about treatment if you test positive.”
For the month of March, the department said BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 rose to collectively comprise more than 70% prevalence in central New York and more than 20% prevalence in the neighboring Finger Lakes region.
In April, data indicates that levels in central New York are now above 90%.
The department noted that its findings are the first reported instances of significant community spread due to the new subvariants in the U.S.
There is currently no evidence suggesting BA.2.12.1 causes more severe disease.
Two other omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, have begun to spread at low levels across the globe.