On January 28, 2022, the Long Beach Health Department received confirmation of its first case of the Omicron subvariant, BA.2. The new subvariant was first detected in South Africa in December of 2021 and has since been detected in 49 countries, including the United States.
The potential impact of BA.2 is not yet fully known. There is some indication that the new subvariant, which has been nicknamed Stealth Omicron, may spread more easily than the original Omicron variant, but right now it does not appear that BA.2 causes more severe illness.
Early data from the U.K. show that being up to date on COVID-19 vaccines (fully vaccinated or vaccinated plus boosted for those eligible) protects just as well against severe disease in BA.2. Since the original Omicron was first introduced in Long Beach in December of last year, there have been 327 hospitalizations and 70 deaths. In recent weeks, fatalities have increased – today the City reported 13 new deaths of residents, all of which have occurred this month. Of those hospitalized, 91% were either unvaccinated or not up to date with their vaccinations, and 93% of those who died from the virus were either unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations. Everyone is urged to reduce COVID-19 transmission by getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks indoors and at large outdoor events and by staying home and getting tested when feeling sick or if exposed to COVID-19.
In Long Beach, where approximately 98% of sequenced cases are Omicron, cases have declined to an average of 991 per day compared to Jan. 13, when cases averaged 2,282 per day. The current seven-day average case rate is 256.4 per 100,000, compared to two weeks ago when the case rate was 442.9 per 100,000. The positivity rate has also dropped from 29.6% to 24.3%. While the Omicron surge may have peaked, cases remain extraordinarily high when compared with previous surges. It is important that everyone continue to remain diligent as BA.2 may have the potential to extend the current surge or cause a new surge, and it is not yet clear whether a person who has contracted the Omicron variant of COVID-19 can be reinfected by BA.2.
The Health Department urges everyone to become vaccinated and get their boosters when eligible. The more people who are vaccinated, the lower the chance that any variant can get a foothold in our community. Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing COVID-19 cases, as well as preventing hospitalization, serious illness or death among breakthrough cases of the virus.
The City offers vaccine clinics six days a week: the schedule can be found at longbeach.gov/vaxlb. No appointment is necessary at City-run vaccine clinics. People also may contact their healthcare provider or area pharmacies or visit myturn.ca.gov to make a vaccine appointment. Vaccines are available to everyone 5 years old and older, regardless of immigration status, and are always free of charge.
Many symptoms of COVID-19 resemble those of a cold, flu and allergies. Anyone experiencing congestion or a runny nose, the sniffles, sore throat, fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea should be tested for COVID-19. Free testing is available at City-run sites; people also may contact their healthcare provider or area pharmacies to receive a test.