Omicron BA.5 is spreading, so let’s make smart choices to keep it at bay

By now, most Americans have probably heard of BA.5, the subvariant of Omicron that experts say is the most transmissible strain of coronavirus to date.

BA.5 is now the dominant form of the virus in the United States And although there is no evidence that BA.5 causes more severe disease, it is more likely to evade any immunity you may have from previous COVID-19 infection or vaccination.

In other words, BA.5 can make you sick, more easily and more than once.

This is worrying news, with the summer travel season in full swing. Because as anyone who has recently taken a flight or even taken public transport can attest, more of us are traveling without a mask since mandates became a thing of the past.

It bears repeating: yes, we are all “done with COVID”, but masking is still the smart choice. Especially within the tight confines of a plane, bus or train.

There is no need to panic on BA.5. But we all need to be informed and aware — and follow, even if we complain about it, the advice of public health officials to wear a mask indoors when around other people.

Do it for ourselves and for the people we come into contact with, especially those who are at greater risk of serious illness due to age or pre-existing conditions.

In Cook County, our risk of community transmission of COVID-19 has fallen back to “medium,” in part because new cases have remained stable and hospitalizations have fallen in Chicago.

Still, new cases are on the rise elsewhere. Nationally, more than 107,000 new infections are being reported daily, and experts point out the number is likely a serious undercount, as so many of us rely on home tests that go unreported. they turn out to be positive. Hospitalizations are also on the rise. Deaths, however, continue to decline.

This fall, booster shots targeting Omicron sub-variants should be available, which is good news.

Young children are now also eligible to be vaccinated, although to date only 4% of Chicago youth ages 0-4 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, city ​​data show.

Meanwhile, the Cook County Public Health Department is offering $100 Visa gift cards through July 15 to residents who get vaccinated. Make an appointment at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.

BA.5 is spreading, but we can make smart choices to keep it at bay.

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