February 26, 2024

A leading epidemiologist warns that a sixth wave of Covid, fueled by the highly infectious sub-material BA.5 omicron, is about to collapse over New York City.

Dr. Jay Varma, Bill de Blasio’s COVID czar during the pandemic’s peak, said the large number of positive cases reported indicated the possibility of another spike.

The decline in reported cases of COVID 19 in New York City has stopped. Reported cases are at high stability, which means actual transmission is very high… and this is likely the start of a BA.5 wave,” Dr. Varma tweeted.

The BA.5 variant was first discovered in South Africa in December and experts consider it the most dangerous strain yet for its ability to evade antibodies from previous infection or vaccination and override immunity.

Transmission of Covid cases in New York has been on the rise since hitting a two-month low last week.

Dr. Varma, a Weill Cornell epidemiologist, said the fact that infection rates remained high and stable in New York indicated the possibility of another wave.

“Experience from other countries means that there will be another significant increase in New York City COVID 19 infections, including among those who have had Omicron in the past few months.”

According to New York Health Department testing, BA.5 cases now represent 33% of injuries.

Nationally, the BA.5 variant makes up 37 percent of new cases, according to Figures from the CDC.

Hospitalization and death rates continue to decline, and Dr. Varma said it was unclear what impact the rise in BA.5 cases would have on these numbers.

“At least, you can be confident to expect that BA.5 will lead to more days when people are out of work, kids home from school/camp, and more people with prolonged COVID.”

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration told vaccine makers that any booster shots modified in the fall should add protection against omicron’s newest relative.

They recommended composite shots that add protection against Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

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