Fresno County keeping close eye on emerging variants, despite fight for more federal COVID funding

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The White House is raising concerns after Congress has yet to sign a new COVID-19 funding bill.

According to officials, a lack of funding puts the country at risk in the fight to end the virus, including the inability to detect new variants.

Fresno County Health Department has been relying on genome sequencing and wastewater surveillance to detect and track new COVID variants.

While a new COVID funding bill sits in Congress, county health leaders are confident they have the tools needed to continue these efforts.

"So even as other types of detection and screenings are decreasing, there's much more availability of rapid antigen testing," said Dr. John Zweifler.

Dr. Zweifler explained that rapid tests could be used to track the amount of cases, while PCR tests are able to detect COVID variants.

The county will also continue its wastewater surveillance to search for possible new variants.

"We're unlikely to see a new variant of significance arise in Fresno County," he said. "I think we'll get plenty of warning when there's a new variant that's out there."

According to health officials, access to COVID trends around the country and world will be helpful, especially as the Omicron subvariant BA.2 has now become the most dominant variant in California.

"It's not significantly different from the other COVID infections that we've seen. It is a little bit more transmissible, so that is a reason for concern," Zweifler said. "To date, it doesn't seem like it's leading to increased hospitalizations."

With a shift to fewer restrictions and possibly fewer COVID resources, Zweifler stressed the weight now falls on individuals -- which means to stay home when you're sick and get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible.

"We as individuals have to take a little more personal responsibility in how we help manage this," said Dr. Zweifler.

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