Cases of new COVID-19 variant already seen on Central Coast

Posted at 8:26 AM, Mar 21, 2022

BA.2 is a different version of Omicron. People started calling it the stealth variant because it wasn't showing up on certain tests, but now health officials know how to identify it.

Vaccination against and prior infection with the omicron variant does give a level of immunity against BA.2. However, it is possible to still get it, even then, but health officials say the symptoms would be much less severe.

“The symptoms seem to be very similar, so not necessarily this horrific cough that initially the Delta variant was very much known for. But a lot of, you know, stomach issues, you know, people have a fever and they have mainly stomach issues when they have very minor symptoms," said Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, who also mentioned a scratchy throat.

Dr. Ansorg said the variant does not seem to be affecting the lungs severely, but it is more transmissible than the original virus, which is something that has to be the case for the variant to take over.

“My recommendation is even though we have a much lower case rate than during the last American surge and we don't need a mandate for masking, it's still very helpful to protect yourself with a high-quality mask when you go to the grocery store or to the movie theater or any public places,” he explained.

According to Santa Barbara County health officials, BA.2 makes up about 10% of cases. In San Luis Obispo County, health officials estimate the variant is between 10% and 15% of cases in the county.

SLO County said it is likely that BA.2 will become the dominant variant locally. They do not test every positive case for variant, but added that they have observed three cases so far.

Dr. Ansorg noted, “We are already seeing in California, depending on the area, anywhere between 10% to over 50% of this one now. But please, you have to understand that that doesn't mean that we have a ton of cases because our case rates now after this surge with Omicron is so low.”