New Omicron variant rising in Wisconsin

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 8:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new version of the Omicron variant is making inroads into Wisconsin. In its weekly update, Public Health Madison and Dane Co. noted federal health officials are reporting the share of new cases that are of the Omicron BA.2 subvariant has more than tripled in the past two weeks.

Local officials pointed to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which show the subvariant made up 23.1% of new cases in the past week. Last week, that figure stood at 13.7 percent, up from the 7.1 percent from the prior week. With a much smaller sample size, the state of Wisconsin is seeing a similar rise. According to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, thirty percent of cases that have been sequenced in the state in the first full week of March have been the BA.2 variant. However, that is based on just ten sequences so far.

The number of sequenced genomes rises as they have more time to process. Fifty-nine cases have been sequenced so far for the prior week, nine of which (15.25%) were the BA.2 subvariant. The number of sequencings from the final full week of February has seen more than 400 results, with approximately 8.5% coming back BA.2.

PHMDC warned the new subvariant is more transmissible than the original Omicron, which sent cases to record levels in Dane Co. and across Wisconsin. The agency’s blog post offered some room for optimism. The gap for how much more transmissible the new Omicron is compared to the previous one is smaller than the difference between the first Omicron and the Delta variant. Notably, the UW lab reported for the first time this week that there has not been a single Delta case in the past 30 days. Additionally, Dane Co. health officials pointed to two studies from Denmark and Qatar that showed the likelihood of being infected with the second Omicron after having contracted the first one is slim.

Beyond specific variants, the overall case count in Wisconsin continued its downward slide. With 365 new confirmed cases reported on Friday, the seven-day rolling-average slipped to 338 cases per day. The latest daily total brings the number of positive tests to 1,388,821 since the pandemic began.

The number of COVID-19 deaths topped 20 for the first time since Feb. 23, DHS data show. That brought the seven-day rolling-average to 10 per day over the past week and puts it back at the high end of the range where that average has sat since that time.

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