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“Although we are fed up with Covid, let’s not bury our heads in the sand”

Utah is seeing another spike in new cases of COVID-19, with state health officials attributing the surge to the “stealth” variant BA.2.

However, hospitalization rates remain low and health officials say they are still analyzing the potential impact going forward.

“Forecasting is always a slippery slope,” said Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, at a news conference Thursday “The virus has behaved in similar situations in the past.”

The state counted 3,385 new cases in the seven days ending Sunday, up about 5% from the previous week and a sharp increase over the past month, while the state had been counting just about 600 new cases per week in early April .

The BA.2 variant was first spotted earlier this year and quickly spread across the United States. It is considered by the World Health Organization to be the “subline” of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. It’s a different version of omicron than BA.1, which was responsible for the spike that hit the Northeast late last year.

Nurses at Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital wear protective gear.  COVID-19 case rates are rising again in Utah, and Intermountain officials say they expect to see more patients in the coming weeks.

Studies have shown that BA.2 is “inherently more transmissible” than omicron BA.1, but it does not appear to cause as many serious illnesses as omicron BA.1, leading to a rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for about a year led month before crashing just as quickly.

Intermountain Healthcare facilities are seeing similar patterns with the new variant, with fewer hospital admissions compared to overall cases. But the large number of new cases has put some strain on hospitals in the area, and Webb said Thursday he expects those numbers to only increase.

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