FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New subvariants are driving a COVID surge in much of the country, including here in the Valley.
CDC data out Tuesday shows the BA.5 omicron variant is now causing most infections in the U.S.
Almost 200 COVID patients needed treatment at Fresno County hospitals on the last day of June, doubling the load from a month before.
The spike is concerning for emergency room doctors, even though they're nowhere near the numbers from the peak of the pandemic.
"We're really very much strained across all emergency departments here in Fresno County and the ambulance system is also overwhelmed," said Dr. Rais Vohra, the Fresno County health officer.
Dr. Vohra is also an ER doctor. He says the surge in patients is causing delays in ERs and reduced ambulance availability.
But he says the most troubling statistic right now may be the positivity rate: 17.6% of all tests reported to the county came back positive.
Omicron and its subvariants are driving the increase.
BA.5 and BA.4 account for about 70% of all infections in the U.S. right now.
They're very transmissible and very good at overcoming immunity, whether from vaccination, prior infection, or both.
And the demographics may be changing.
"What we're seeing in our community is we're seeing increased cases in our youth population," said Joe Prado, Fresno County division manager.
Halfway through 2022, Fresno County had recorded COVID infections in more than 24,000 kids up to age 16, almost as many as in 2020 and 2021 combined.
Vaccinations are now available for kids as young as six months old.
Omicron and its subvariants are better at evading vaccine protections, but the CDC recently reported vaccinated people are still around 40 times more likely to survive an infection compared to the unvaccinated.
"Healthy children get sick with COVID, too," said Dr. Hailey Nelson, a complex care physician at Valley Children's Hospital. "And when you look at the hospitalizations for COVID it really is unvaccinated children who are coming in at much higher rates."
CDC data shows death is still an unusual outcome for children, but the numbers are climbing and COVID has killed hundreds of kids in the U.S.
Dr. Vohra says we can expect high rates of infection at least through the end of this month.
He recommends people go back to avoiding crowds and wearing masks, at least until this wave slows down.