by Kate Shunney
Most new COVID-19 cases nationwide are tied to the newest BA.5 variant of the virus, according to CDC officials.
Morgan County’s COVID case numbers rose to 14 on Monday, and the Health Department is reminding the public that there are steps they can take to prevent infection from the respiratory virus.
The BA dominant strain of COVID-19 is what public health workers are calling “highly transmissible” and just different enough from other viral strains that it can slip past immunity from vaccination and previous infections.
In other words, the BA.5 variant is getting around quickly, and can reinfect people who are fully vaccinated, with a vaccine booster and with natural antibodies from a prior case of COVID. Those with antibodies are reporting having a milder case of illness than those who encountered earlier strains before vaccines were available.
Public health workers don’t believe this variant causes more severe respiratory illness that other versions of the virus.
Doctors have said most people in America by now have some “underlying immunity” that helps them fight the virus, either from a vaccine or earlier illness.
Still, doctors believe that even a mild COVID illness carries health risks. Some people will experience what is being called “long-COVID” – including cardiac trouble, shortness of breath, brain fog and general debility. Because of those risks, public health experts are encouraging people to do what they can to keep from getting COVID, even if they think they might be protected from it.
Masks are still recommended in crowded indoor events, in large crowds outside and while traveling.
Those who have a confirmed case of COVID are still being asked to keep away from others for the duration of their symptoms. Ideally, people recovering from COVID will also mask up around others for another five days after they get better, or until they get a negative result on a COVID test.
West Virginia’s COVID response team said late last week the state could be on track to have 500 COVID-19 patients in the state’s hospitals by Labor Day.
Cases have not hit the highs from the previous year but are climbing enough that the West Virginia National Guard is on standby to return personnel to hospitals and medical centers if there is a surge of patients in the next month.
Currently, all age groups are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine and booster shot at the right time. Anyone over the age of 50 can get a second booster, though health officials are considering dropping the age minimum because immunity appears to wane for individuals three to four months after a shot or infection.