We wrote in our March update: Well we have been here before……!
We were referencing a break and slowdown in COVID infections during March. And of course we are here in April to report a new variant that is now spreading across the Country:
Here’s what you need to know about BA.2 the new variant.
Around the world, new infections are largely due to the BA.2 version of omicron. In the U.S., BA.2 accounted for about a quarter (23.1%) of the cases for the week ending March 12, the CDC says. That’s up from 14.2% the week ending March 5.
This new COVID variant, first detected two months ago, now making its way across the U.S. and spreading more quickly in the Northeast and West.
The BA.2 variant appears to be on its way to becoming the dominant COVID strain, having roughly doubled each week for the last month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2 is considered by the World Health Organization as a “sublineage” of the highly transmissible omicron variant. It’s a different version of omicron than BA.1, which was responsible for the surge that hit the Midwest in January – February.
How fast is BA.2 spreading in the US?
BA.2 made up 39% of cases in New Jersey and New York, the week ending March 12, up from 25.4% the previous week, the CDC says. (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are also included by the CDC in that region’s COVID case breakdown.)In the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont), BA.2 accounted for 38.6% of cases, up from 24% the previous week, according to the CDC.
In the West, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada, BA.2 accounts for 27.7% of cases, up from 17.1% the previous week. In the upper West, including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, BA.2 made up 26.2% of cases, up from 16%, the CDC says.
BA.2 cases have risen in recent weeks in the rest of the U.S., accounting for 12% to 20% of cases in other states for the week ending March 12.
Does BA.2 spread faster? Is it more lethal?
Studies have shown that BA.2 is “inherently more transmissible” than omicron BA.1, according to the World Health Organization. What’s not yet known is if BA.2 causes severe illness as did omicron BA.1 did, which prompted a rapid surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths for a month before plummeting just as quickly. While omicron BA.1 was considered milder than both COVID’s original strain and the delta variant, it led to an increase in U.S. COVID deaths: 60,000 in January 2022, twice the amount of deaths in November, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
But health officials are uncertain what BA.2 will do.
Are vaccines and natural immunity effective against BA.2?
Vaccines were shown to be as effective against BA.2 as they were against omicron BA.1, according to British scientists. That means the vaccines may not prevent infection, but they work well in fending off severe illness. If you were infected by omicron BA.1, you may also have good protection against BA.2, according to the World Health Organization. While reinfection is possible, studies suggest that infection with BA.1 “provides strong protection” against reinfection with BA.2.
And lastly, we encourage everyone to read a USAToday piece printed in mid-March by a Dr. David Gifford, a geriatrician, is the chief medical officer at the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.
Don’t blame nursing homes for the deaths of residents in a
To grade nursing homes on deaths is disrespectful to the caregivers who put their lives on the line to protect residents, who are like family to them. Dr. David Gifford USATODAY March 16, 2022
Community COVID cases at this writing have decreased week over week since our last report. We have been writing about the community effects and whether it is Flu or COVID what is in the community will make its way into a nursing home within the community.
Our facility’s COVID numbers have dramatically decreased since our last update. Our mitigation of reducing the spread of this virus continues to work as we stay focused on infection control: handwashing, masking, and distancing where we can.
Fortunately overall, the vaccines appear to be working against Omicron and Delta variants, but we must remain vigilant and steadfast on vaccinating and boosting as many residents and staff members as quickly as possible. Please remember, like the Flu Vaccine – the COVID vaccine does not protect someone 100% from getting the virus, it was designed to reduce extreme (death, hospitalization) effects of the virus. So for those holding out from vaccination saying – “why should I get it – you got the vaccine and you still got COVID:” Please look at the numbers: 99% of UNVACCINATED people are who are being admitted to the hospital from their significant symptoms and are those who have died from this virus.
We remain optimistic but we cannot let our guard down. As we started this update – we have been here before. Stay diligent. Stay focused. If we can move forward for a couple of months without another major outbreak (like Omicron was) and we can beat this virus.
Dear Residents and Family Members & Staff,
At last update, Delta was still the major, most often seen variant of the COVID Virus. Omicron has taken hold, and in most cases we now see in our area that it is now the major dominate strain effecting our communities.
Overall, nursing homes throughout the country have experienced an alarming spike in new COVID cases in recent weeks due to community spread among the general population. In mid- January, 32,061 nursing home residents tested positive for COVID-19 – nearly doubling the previous week’s numbers. Staff case counts hit their highest ever as well, reaching 57,253 – more than double the previous staff case count record, set in December of 2020.
Fortunately, the vaccines appear to be working against Omicron, but we must remain vigilant and steadfast on vaccinating and boosting as many residents and staff members as quickly as possible. Please remember, like the Flu Vaccine – the COVID vaccine does not protect someone 100% from getting the virus, it was designed to reduce extreme (death, hospitalization) effects of the virus. So for those holding out from vaccination saying – “why should I get it – you got the vaccine and you still got it.” Please look at the numbers: 99% of UNVACCINATED people are who are being admitted to the hospital from their significant symptoms and are those who have died from this virus.
A quick look at the graph below shows the dramatic effect of what is affecting the community at large will make its way into Nursing Homes in that community.
We continue to be steadfast in our infection control systems:
Stay healthy. At this writing, the Omicron strain appears to be burning itself out and cases are stabilizing again. Our hope is that this trend continues.
Dear Residents, Family Members and & Staff,
On November 24, 2021, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). This new variant was first detected in specimens collected on November 11, 2021 in Botswana and on November 14, 2021 in South Africa.
On November 26, 2021, WHO named the Omicron and classified it as a Variant of Concern (VOC). On November 30, 2021, the United States designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern, and on December 1, 2021 the first confirmed U.S. case of Omicron was identified.
CDC has been collaborating with global public health and industry partners to learn about Omicron, as we continue to monitor its course. We don’t yet know how easily it spreads, the severity of illness it causes, or how well available vaccines and medications work against it. But the beginning of the research into this variant does appear that if vaccinated, the effects of illness are not severe.
Despite the increased attention of Omicron, Delta continues to be the main variant circulating in the United States.
The continuation of Nursing Home outbreaks of positive residents or staff continue to be low across the Country and thankfully in our home as well. However, troubling for all of us is that the community positivity rates in most areas of the Country, including ours is high and continues to rise. There is an old saying in the Nursing Home world – what is happening in the community where a facility is located will make its way into the facility. So we need to be cautious.
Our facility continues to focus on our infection control work. Training and retraining on 4 main topics:
Among other topics
We are continuing to remind employees, family members and anyone entering the facility, if you are sick, you cannot come to the facility and potentially infect others – whether it is Flu or COVID-19.
We know everyone wants to celebrate the holidays. We know everyone wants to return to normal. However, we caution everyone to celebrate responsibly. Whether it is a smaller number of Christmas dinner guests or planning to stay home for New Year’s Eve we need to be cautious. The continuation of spreading of this virus is one all of us.
Vaccination against this virus is still our strongest weapon against it and its mutations.
From Our Home to Yours
Our Best Wishes for the Holidays and the Safest, COVID Free 2022.