A new subvariant known as BA.2, or “stealth” omicron, has been found in over 40 countries, and three cases were reported in San Diego County on Wednesday. 

The first case of the subvariant was discovered in December, and most recently in January according to the county’s Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA). A team led by Dr. Louise Laurent of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and co-lead of the SEARCH Alliance had also discovered BA.2 in their most recent batch of sequencing. The variant was found in over 40 different countries. 

According to Laurent, the variant “sounds like it is quite similar, clinically in terms of transmissibility and severity,” though “it is early for us to tell”. 

As of Wednesday, the county reported 6,108 new COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths, bringing the region’s cumulative totals to 675,250 cases and 4,622 deaths. The number of COVID-positive patients in San Diego County hospitals decreased by 12 people to 1,276, according to Wednesday’s state data.

Of those patients, 224 were in intensive care, down eight from Tuesday. The number of available ICU beds decreased by four to 174 on Wednesday. County health officials say some patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.

This announcement comes as county health officials urge residents to get boosted amid newly released research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows its efficiency in preventing hospitalizations. 

According to the HHSA, a total of 1,021,730 or 49.9 percent of San Diegans who are fully vaccinated have received a booster. Boosters are currently available for everyone 12 years and older.

Over 2.85 million or 90.8 percent of San Diegans age five and older are at least partially vaccinated, and more than 2.51 million or 79.9 percent are fully vaccinated.

“While we’re seeing more breakthrough infections due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, research has shown that people who have received their booster are not getting seriously ill and therefore do not end up in the hospital,” said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. “San Diegans should get a booster immediately if they are eligible.”

On Tuesday, the county reported 42,736 new tests, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 26.6 percent, which decreased from 27.5 percent on Friday. 

In the span of a month, beginning Dec.14, 2021, through Jan.12, 2022, there were 996 hospitalizations reported, and of that, 91 San Diegans who were boosted landed in the hospital. 

There are over 400 vaccination sites throughout the county. Members of the public may schedule an appointment or find a nearby site by calling 833-422-4255 or visiting the MyTurn or coronavirus-sd.com websites.

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