The BA2 Variant is Expanding in Los Angeles County, But Should You Care?
Public health officials say it's a "variant of concern" and may trigger "community prevention strategies" but hospitalizations and deaths are lower than before the Omicron surge
March 25, 2022
March 25, 2022 - The BA2 variant of the Omicron version of Covid-19 now comprises 14.7% of samples sequenced, and that has Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health worried. In the same press release yesterday in which she admits that by every metric the Centers for Disease Control measures, the county is in a very low spot regarding danger from Covid-19, she warns that new "community prevention strategies" may be triggered by the growing number of cases found of the BA2 variant.
Currently, the county is considered to have a "low" community level of transmission, with 117.8 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, 3.5 new Covid-related admissions per 100,000 people, and only 2.6% of staffed inpatient beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is lower than before the Omicron surge began in December, 2021.
Despite the rise of the BA2 variant.
The growing number of BA2 samples does not appear to be adversely affecting public health. Why is it a matter for "alert" or concern?
Ferrer warned last week that if the percent of BA2 went over 10%, it would raise the level of alert for that metric from "low" to "moderate." And once more than two of her early alert metrics moves to "moderate," she
Again, why? Why is 10% a magic number? And why does the number of BA2 cases matter if hospitalizations and deaths remain low?
In fact, almost none of Ferrer's indicators for the need to change "community strategies" involves metrics that actually mean the public is at risk. Why is the case rate in low-income areas a matter that would require new mask mandates, for example? Case rates are meaningless, whether they are in low or high-income areas. What is important is severe disease and death.
Another metric that might trigger new restrictions are the number of outbreaks in TK-12 schools. Why? Children are at low risk of severe illness. And if Ferrer is afraid the schoolchildren will spread Covid, mere case numbers, as just explained, are not necessarily a matter of public health concern. Only if the cases become severe does the transmissibility of the virus matter. The overall case-to-death rate for the vaccinated during the last Omicron surge was similar to the seasonal flu.
Ferrer did not hold a media briefing yesterday, what has been a weekly event for many months, if not since the beginning of the pandemic. She is quickly becoming irrelevant.
But not if she can scare up some reasons to scare the public. No matter how illusory those reasons might be.