Indianapolis News and HeadlinesState News


Could the COVID-19 BA.2 subvariant cause another surge? Local experts weigh in

Posted at 6:59 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 19:01:43-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be a thing of the past, but the new Omicron BA.2 subvariant is raising questions as to whether there could be another surge in cases.

A doctor from Franciscan Health Indianapolis says only time will tell.

"It doesn't feel like we are going to have another surge from it,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health. “Once some of this immunity starts waning down the line here the next three to six months, we very well could have another surge. We will just have to wait and see."

According to Micah Pollak, an economist who has been tracking the trends of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, 30% of cases in the Midwest are BA.2 cases. But the state remains in good shape when it comes to cases and hospitalizations, he said.

"As of yesterday, there were only 12 days since the pandemic began that had lower average daily cases and only seven days that had lower positivity rates,” said Pollak, an Associate Professor of Economics Indiana University Northwest. “So right now, we are pretty much in the best situation we have been in since the pandemic began."

Even if cases start to rise because of the new variant, it isn’t likely that hospitals will start to fill up again.

"It does not seem to have the same level of severity and whether that’s a function of the vaccine that is giving protection or whether the subvariant is less severe we are not 100% sure," said Doehring.

However, data trackers say if the trends stick to how they have for the last two years, a surge in cases could happen soon.

"I wouldn't say that there is a conclusive sign that BA.2 is driving a new wave yet in the United States,” said Pollak. “If we look to the United Kingdom and other places where we typically follow in the footsteps of a couple of weeks, I think it's reasonable to expect that we will see a rise in cases here."

While health officials are unsure when the pandemic will become endemic, they recommend enjoying getting back to normal.

"I think we are at a place where we can sort of take a breath and enjoy these calm waters as we keep our eyes peeled on what’s going on around the world and what may be coming," said Doehring.

Doehring added that as long as hospitalizations remain low, masks can remain off.