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UNMC public health physician: New COVID variants increasing chance of super spreader events this 4th of July

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 19:52:42-04

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — After years of surges and slowdowns, folks have started to get complacent about COVID-19.

But a new variant is bringing the reality of the pandemic back to Omaha.

“From what we are seeing now, it appears a large proportion, I would guess more than half of the cases we are seeing are BA4 and BA5 and that matches the trend we have seen regionally and nationally,” said Dr. James Lawler, MD, MPH with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Officials say the latest versions of the omicron variant are spreading quickly due to BA4 and BA5 sidestepping previous immunity.

That means it can easily infect you even if you have already had COVID.

“Natural immunity, while it's good for the variant that you were infected with for a period of time, your immunity for new variants is probably not nearly as good and that seems even more pronounced for BA4 and BA5,” said Lawler.

Despite rising COVID cases, most folks are no longer masking or socially distancing and with a busy holiday weekend upon us, Lawler says there is an increased risk of super spreader events.

“Those environments where these individuals can be exposed to a larger number of people, in particular crowds and indoor settings, those are the environments for super spreading and drive transmission in the community,” said Lawler.

Those precautions are more important than ever as recent studies show that BA4 and BA5 can cause serious infections regardless of whether you have had COVID before.

Lawler says vaccines are still the best bet to keep yourself and others safe and wants to remind folks that you must stay up to date on your vaccinations for them to remain effective.

“These more recent variants are not milder, they are only acting milder in the community because we have done a good job of getting people vaccinated and boosted who are in the highest risk category. But now everybody is becoming more susceptible as we move farther and farther away from the last dose of the vaccines or most of our residents,” said Lawler.

So, if you want to have a fun Fourth of July weekend and stay healthy while you do, you might want to keep COVID in mind and some extra masks handy.

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