Doctor: ‘Stealth Omicron’ could impact Mississippi in two weeks

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Just as several cities and departments in Mississippi drop some of the last COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, a new variant is on the rise across the pond.

Across the Magnolia State, the number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and COVID-19 deaths continue to drop.

And in response, cities like Jackson dropped their remaining restrictions and mandates. But is it too soon?

“We’re seeing a couple of very irritating things going on right now, just as we are opening things up and removing restrictions, which are appropriate as these numbers go down,” Medical Director of Infectious Disease for Baptist Medical Health Care, Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, said.

That irritation is the BA. 2 variant, also known at “Stealth Omicron,” which has caused the positivity rate in the U.K. and Europe to increase by 50% over the last 7 days with hospitalizations increasing too.

Threlkeld said that trend could be duplicated here in Mississippi in about 2 weeks.

“It makes us very nervous that we could be seeing that sort of thing, particularly when you show that the British experience has been pretty good at predicting our experience a few weeks afterward,” Threlkeld said.

The CDC reports the BA. 2 variant has been circulating the U.S. since February. However, Threlkeld said the severity of the variant could change and become more unpredictable.

“It comes down right now to what variants are on the horizon. We hope that it will sort of morph into a less and less severe disease,” Threlkeld said.

According to the World Health Organization, people who contracted Omicron and/or are fully vaccinated, have some protection against the BA. 2 variant.

“When you add vaccines to some of the new medications like the new Pfizer drug, that actually cuts hospitalizations and deaths by 90%. You’re talking about reducing 4,000 to 40,000 all by itself with that number and that gets us into a flu sort of range,” Threlkeld said.

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