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What to know about the predominant BA.5 Covid variant in Wisconsin; health experts anticipate case rise

Posted at 7:15 AM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 08:15:24-04

MANITOWOC, Wis. (NBC 26) — The last Covid-19 variant spread fast, but the latest strain is spreading even faster. That's why Manitowoc resident Henderson Bell still practices safety protocols.

"I gotta keep going on to make money as well, so I can't let Covid get me down," he said. "I gotta keep moving."

The BA.5 variant is now the predominant strain in the country and in Wisconsin.

"It's just more transmissible," Manitowoc County Health Department Officer Stephanie Lambert said. "As far as we know, it doesn't seem to be more severe and it can also evade immunity more than our other ones."

Lambert says a previous infection doesn't necessarily provide protection from the variant. But vaccines are still working against severe disease and death.

"We now have 55 people hospitalized in the Northeast region for Covid-19," she said. "If you compare that to last summer, we had about six people hospitalized at this time last year."

As of last week, the CDC reports BA.5 makes up almost 67 percent of cases in six Midwest states including Wisconsin.

The seven-day average of positive Covid cases in Manitowoc County was just 24 as of Thursday. That number is down from earlier this week.

"In Wisconsin, we expect this rise to pick up here over the next four to six weeks as people start to come more inside, as schools start," Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai said. "Unfortunately, as more people get infected, the chances of another variant are very likely."

Meanwhile, local health experts say a new omicron booster is on the way.

"It's basically been a life change for me in my life during Covid, but I still keep pushing and everything through the grace of God," Henderson said.