WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Cases of the highly-contagious omicron variant continue to decrease in South Florida after reaching a peak last month.
The CDC reported Wednesday that Florida had 16,883 new COVID-19 cases compared with 37,561 last week and the record 77,052 on Jan. 8.
However, the latest figures show that case levels continue to be substantially higher than at their lowest levels before last year's surge from the delta variant.
All of this comes after reports this week indicate that the new BA.2 substrain of omicron, dubbed "stealth" omicron, has been detected in Florida.
It received this moniker since it is harder to detect than the original version of omicron because of specific genetic traits.
BA.2 was detected in Texas and Washington state last month after it took hold in Denmark in December, making up around half of the European country's omicron cases.
Global data shows that BA.2 is in a tug-of-war with its cousin, BA.1, in becoming the dominant strain in several countries, including the United Kingdom and Singapore.
There's not any functional or epidemiological data to show any meaningful differences....yet. But BA.2 has become dominant in Denmark, out-competing BA.1, and its prevalence is rising in India, Singapore, Sweden, the UK and other countries /2 Graph via @Mike_Honey_ pic.twitter.com/eWIZ6cWmJc— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) January 23, 2022
Scientists say the omicron descendant is gaining ground in some parts of the world and is maybe 1 1/2 times more contagious than the original omicron variant.
Health officials are keeping their eyes on the variant, which has been found in more than 50 countries.
Citing GISAID, a public database used by scientists to track the spread of infectious diseases, the Tampa Times reported that two cases of the BA.2 subvariant have been identified in Florida in a seven-day span.
The report stated that the people who tested positive for "stealth" omicron were a 69-year-old woman on Jan. 11 and a 32-year-old man on Jan. 16.
It is unclear in which Florida counties the two people tested positive for the BA.2 substrain.
The Florida Department of Health said Wednesday they were aware of a sequenced case of BA.2 uploaded to GISAID by a laboratory contracted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, Florida health officials did not elaborate further.
Infectious disease experts say there's a lot they still don't know, including whether it causes more severe disease.
Danish scientists reported this week that preliminary information suggests it could be more contagious.
In the meantime, doctors continue to urge people to get vaccinated and abide by the usual coronavirus precautions.
Portions of this article courtesy of the Associated Press