Just as the holidays get underway, two new subvariants of Omicron are spreading rapidly, pushing up new COVID cases in LA County 54% since November 1.
“The pandemic is not over. We are still seeing a lot of COVID and other viruses as well right now,” said infectious disease expert, Dr. Annabelle De St. Maurice of UCLA Medical School.
The NBC4 I-Team spoke with top infectious disease experts, who are urging people to take precautions this holiday season.
They’re concerned about two infectious subvariants—B.Q.1 and B.Q.1.1, which now make up 26% of COVID cases in LA County and could soon account for the majority of cases.
Experts tell the I-Team the subvariants appear resistant to some monoclonal antibody treatments that have been widely used, and resistant to some of the COVID vaccines given a year or two ago.
So infectious disease researchers say everyone should get the newest COVID shot—the bivalent booster—which is formulated to combat the newer variants.
“If you have had the bivalent vaccine, you are likely protected against these variants. Of course it’s not 100 percent, but none of these vaccines are 100 percent effective,” says Dr. Saahir Khan of USC Keck Medicine.
Other experts are urging people to once again mask up when traveling through airports and airplanes this holiday season.
Today LA County Public Health officials took that advice a step further, “strongly recommending” that everyone now wear masks in all public indoor settings and on public transportation including rideshares.
Other advice for the holiday season that infectious disease experts gave the I-Team: consider taking a home COVID test before going to a holiday gathering, especially with elderly relatives.
And if you’re feeling any symptoms of COVID or other respiratory viruses like the flu, consider skipping holiday dinners and parties.
“It’s really important to stay home if you’re symptomatic, because symptomatic people are more likely to spread these viruses than asymptomatic people, and why share these viruses if you don’t have to” said Dr. Tim Brewer, an epidemiologist at UCLA’s Field School of Public Health.