New York health officials on Wednesday said that two newly identified subvariants of omicron could be helping fuel an increase in COVID-19 cases in the state.
The New York State Department of Health said the two subvariants are known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 and are thought to be even more transmissible than the original BA.2 subvariant of omicron, which already spread more easily than earlier variants.
“State health officials have determined that these highly contagious new variants are likely contributing to the rising cases,” the health department said in a news release.
The department said that the new variants spread an estimated 23 to 27 percent more easily than the original BA.2 subvariant.
“At this time, there is no evidence of increased disease severity by these subvariants, though the Department is closely monitoring for any changes,” it said.
New York, in addition to other areas of the northeast, has seen a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, although cases and hospitalizations overall are still relatively low.
Health experts have noted that vaccines and boosters are holding up well against severe disease and have not sounded the alarm on the recent uptick so far.
“While these subvariants are new, the tools to combat them are not,” said New York Health Commissioner Mary Bassett.
“These tools will work if we each use them: get fully vaccinated and boosted, test following exposure, symptoms, or travel, consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, and consult with your healthcare provider about treatment if you test positive,” Bassett added.