New COVID variants spreads across Central Texas, but health officials are not worried yet

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 8:26 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - There is a new surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the nation and Central Texas is no exception. Area health experts were expecting this because of summer travel and holidays.

With a new variant comes a new wave of infections.

“So we’re concerned that there is a lot more potential for this to spread very rapidly,” said Dr. Janice Smith, the Bell County health authority.

Called BA.5, it is now the dominant strain across the nation.

And places like McLennan and Bell counties are seeing higher risk levels for COVID cases.

“It’s not a huge increase, it’s nothing like the surges that we’ve seen before,” said Smith. “I feel a little more comfortable that this is not going to be as severe.”

Though, area doctors are expecting hospitalizations to increase a bit, they do not expect numbers to go up by much.

So far, CDC data does not show the new strain causes more severe illness, but there is still lots more research to be done.

“Not knowing what these new variants, these new mutations are bringing,” said Smith. “It makes predicting it very difficult.”

Added into that, are different concerns with the COVID spread because testing options have evolved so much since the last major surge.

“We’re not quite as certain about the number of cases there are in the community,” said LaShonda Malrey-Horne, director of the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. “So many people are testing at home.”

Though, the CDC, once again, recommends people with medium or high community spread levels wear masks, right now local officials say it is mainly geared to the more susceptible populations.

“We want to make sure that those in our community, that are immunocompromised, have underlining health conditions are really taking care and protecting themselves,” said Malrey-Horne.

But at this point, officials are more-so asking people to get their vaccines and hope this new surge is not a repeat of what has been seen in the past.

“There’s always that lurk that some mutation – we know there’s going to be more mutations,” said Smith. “One of those mutations could turn this into a more lethal virus again. But generally speaking, it seems like each mutation is – that’s not happening.”

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