Fresno County health leaders prepare for possible surge of BA.2 variant

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Omicron sub-variant is in Central California.

As of Monday, Fresno County currently has 32 identified cases, but the real number is expected to be much higher.

Health officials said they're monitoring its spread through wastewater surveillance.

"We're really not quite sure what's going to happen," shared Dr. John Zweifler with the Fresno County Health Department. "But I think given the loosening of restrictions, and the emergence of the BA.2 variant, that we're likely to see a plateauing or potentially an increase in cases."

Currently, COVID cases remain low and have been falling.

Dr. Zweifler said this is why it's a good time to remove some of the COVID restrictions.

However, he added that it doesn't mean they weren't effective, and it doesn't mean they won't return if there's another surge.

"We can reduce the likelihood of having to return to those measures. Again, we all take personal responsibility," said Dr. Zweifler.

He encourages those eligible to get vaccinated and boosted, and individuals should stay home if they're feeling sick.

"We just need all need to do our part as we remove these requirements and restrictions," Dr. Zweifler said.

Central Valley hospitals are also expecting a possible surge of the BA.2 variant.

The regional vice president with the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California said we could look to Europe for clues -- they've seen BA.2 spread rapidly -- but hospitalizations remain low.

Still, hospital staff wants to be prepared.

"We're making sure that all of the equipment and all of the personnel and all of the medications that we had for our COVID patients during the surge, it's still in place," said David Bacci.

Elective procedures now have the green light, following a pause during the Omicron surge.

According to Bacci, it's been over a month since the surge ended, and hospitals in the Valley mostly remain full of patients with other medical issues.

"We're not sure if they stayed away, just because they were afraid of going to the hospital during the surge, or maybe there's just a lot of health needs that suddenly emerged all at once," he said.

Research suggests BA.2 is more transmissible than Omicron but less likely to lead to severe illness or hospitalization. Local health leaders don't expect this potential surge to impact the Valley in a significant way.

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