A new and special variant of COVID, which is being called BA.2 Omicron for now, or "stealth" Omicron, has been detected in the Bay Area and across California, but word among experts is that it's not likely to behave much differently than regular Omicron.

We've been told not to worry before, but here we are again with another variant to talk about. Isn't this fun?

Here are the basics:

  • It's being called "stealth" Omicron not because it's more pernicious or clever, but because it doesn't necessarily register as Omicron when a sample is tested in a lab. It's basically Omicron in all ways but one — it's missing a particular deletion that distinguishes Omicron from Delta.
  • Even though Omicron is already wildly contagious, this BA.2 version is apparently even more contagious. That's coming from Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke, who said in a news conference Wednesday, "There is no evidence that the BA.2 variant causes more disease, but it must be more contagious." He says must because it appears to be outcompeting regular Omicron in some way.
  • There have been 13 cases of BA.2 Omicron found in California so far, and two found in Santa Clara County this week.

Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody gave a press conference alongside other Bay Area health officers in San Francisco to announce the presence of this "stealth" variant, per the Chronicle.

"So far we don’t really know how it behaves. My guess is it’s probably going to behave like the dominant omicron variant, but we'll see," Cody said.

UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford tells the Chronicle that he doubts this subvariant will seed yet another wave of new cases locally. "The bottom line is, viruses mutate, and we’re going to be dealing with variants all the time," he said. "I think we’re in good shape... for right now, I think we’re just watching viral evolution in action."

And infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong tells the paper, "If you’re vaccinated, and particularly if you’re boosted, I wouldn’t be worried about anything at this moment."

So there you go. Don't worry!

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