Phoenix doctor says new BA.2 variant likely to be less severe here than in China, Europe

A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in Europe and China but Valley doctors say it won't be as severe in Arizona.
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 8:18 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- As many have now taken off the mask and events have resumed not only in Arizona but around the country, other places like Europe and China are seeing a lot of COVID problems with the new BA.2 variant. According to a Valley doctor, it’s another form of the omicron variant, but what we see over there could be much different than what we see here in the U.S and right here in our state.

BA.2 is the name of the new COVID variant rapidly growing overseas that’s just starting to grow here in the U.S. “You may get sick, and it might take time to remember, but the infection most likely won’t kill you,” said Dr. Sam Durrani, chief of staff at a Valley hospital.

He and other health experts said China’s less effective COVID vaccine and low levels of natural immunity, due in part to strong lockdowns, have contributed to the spread. But now, in Arizona, things are much different.

Dr. Durrani said we do have quite a bit of immunity here because we have seen a lot of COVID infection over the past two years combined with the number of fully vaccinated people. That will make a difference when we see an expected spike in cases this summer.

“We will have a surge, but we feel that it won’t be significant enough to interrupt our daily ability to take care of patients,” Dr. Durrani said.

BA.2 is already in Arizona and at a percentage higher than the national level. According to the CDC, BA.2 caused about 35% of cases in the U.S. last week, up from 22% the week before.

According to TGEN, here in Arizona, BA.2 caused about 60% of the COVID infections last week, and even higher in Maricopa County at 68.75%, significantly higher than the 3% it was at in Arizona just one month ago. But our COVID hospitalization numbers are still low.

Dr. Durrani said even though places like China may prevent more deaths, in the long run, he said we’re getting much closer to the endemic point here, and our immune systems have adapted too. “We’ve had significant surges of pain that we’ve dealt with, death that we’ve dealt with, and our bodies aren’t just going to forget the infection that made them sick or almost killed them. Our bodies are very amazing things,” he said.

Dr. Durrani said the number one tool here is to get vaccinated and boosted to keep immunity levels high and keep those hospitalization numbers low like they are right now.