The Hawaii Department Department of Health has confirmed 29 cases of BA.2, a new lineage of the COVID-19 omicron variant first detected in the islands through whole genome sequencing in January.
In its latest variant report DOH’s Laboratories Division reported 29 cases of BA.2, more than triple the initial eight cases reported on Jan. 28.
The latest 29 cases were detected through sequencing in samples collected between Jan. 6 and 30, according to the report.
Scientists around the world are keeping their eyes on this descendant of the omicron variant, which has been found in more than 70 countries, including the United States, according to outbreak.info, which collects data from GISAID, a virus genome database.
It was widely reported to have increased the number of cases, but not hospitalizations, in places like Denmark.
“It’s good to know we haven’t found more cases of the BA.2 sub-variant,” Edward Desmond, State Laboratories division administrator, said in a statement today. “It seems Hawaii’s high vaccination rate, coupled with people who have a degree of immunity from prior infection, may be preventing BA.2 from expanding rapidly or displacing the original omicron variant.”
He added, “We are also encouraged by preliminary research suggesting BA.2 does not send more people to the hospital than original omicron. Of course, original omicron is a dangerous virus and people should still protect themselves by wearing masks and making sure they are up to date with their vaccines.”
In addition to the 29 cases of BA.2, the division confirmed other omicron sublineages, including 423 cases of BA.1, 1,215 cases of BA.1.1, and one case of B.1.1.529. The report said, however, that classifications of omicron lineages are in flux.
The omicron variant of the coronavirus has been the dominant strain in the state since mid-December, and now makes up 100% of variants circulating in Hawaii.