The Omicron subvariant BA.5 accounts for a rapidly growing share of sequenced cases in Arizona — 53% during the week ending July 2 and likely even higher today. Evidence suggests that this version of the virus that causes COVID-19 is better at eluding immune protection offered by vaccination or previous infection.
It’s understandable to be concerned about BA.5 and to ask what each of us can do about it. These approaches are proven to protect:
Vaccinate: Being vaccinated and, better, being vaccinated and up-to-date on recommended booster doses continues offering strong protection for those who are infected. In May, unvaccinated individuals in Arizona were eight times more likely to be hospitalized and 21 times more likely to die than those fully vaccinated with a booster dose. They were 6.6 times more likely to be hospitalized and 15 times more likely to die than those who were vaccinated without a booster dose.
Mitigate: Take into account your own risk and the risk to those around you when considering a mask and other mitigation steps. For example, a crowded indoor space where you don’t know others around you presents more risk and might make you want to consider wearing a mask. All masks offer some degree of protection for the wearer, though N95 and KN95 masks offer the highest degree of protection. We have information on masks at azhealth.gov/Masks. Maintaining physical distance, frequent hand washing, and staying home if you feel ill all will help reduce the spread.
Test and Treat: Get tested if you have symptoms ask your health care provider if you would benefit from antiviral treatments. At azhealth.gov/FindTreatment, we list locations where you can get tested and receive a prescription for antivirals in one visit along with other places offering treatments. We offer resources for those who test positive at azhealth.gov/TestedPositive, and you can sign up there for an infographic with steps you can take.
COVID-19 cases have been elevated week-to-week since late April but remain far below levels seen during the winter surge. Meanwhile, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are low enough to not cause significant strain on the state’s health care system.
COVID-19 community levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have moderated in several counties in the past week. Apache, Navajo, and Mohave counties continue to have high community levels, meaning masks are recommended in public indoor settings. Again, I recommend assessing your own risk and the risk to those around you when deciding on masks and other mitigation steps.
If you want to just be done with COVID-19, I’m right there with you. But the fact remains that COVID-19 is still active and there are things we can all do to reduce our risk. That starts with taking advantage of safe and widely available vaccines and booster doses that continue proving their ability to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death.