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New COVID variant rapidly spreading overseas detected in Bexar County

Local health experts say the new Omicron BA-2 variant is even more contagious than the original omicron, and a surge in cases is likely.

SAN ANTONIO — As the COVID risk fluctuates between low and mild in Bexar County, health experts warn a new sub-variant of the virus could mean a spike in cases across the U.S.

Bexar County is not immune to the new Omicron BA-2 variant that’s rapidly spreading in China and Europe.

“It has been detected in this area, so it's here,” said Dr. Jason Bowling with University Health.

Bexar County has seen a decline in cases since the surge that came in the wake of the Christmas holiday, but Dr. Bowling said that could change.

“We have followed Europe in our prior surges. That's why you're seeing a lot of concern that there's going to be an uptick in cases, and so it likely will happen here as well,” said Dr. Bowling.

Dr. Bowling said that although the new variant doesn’t appear to cause severe illness, it is even more contagious that the original strain of Omicron.

“It shows that there's going to be ongoing risk,” said Dr. Bowling.

A risk, said Dr. Bowling, that comes from people returning to a pre-pandemic lifestyle.

“As we see activity get lower, we relax things, but we have to recognize that that increases potential risk,” said Dr. Bowling. “And, if we see our numbers go up, we need everybody to be aware that we may have to reimplement the masking, decreasing some of the crowds.”

He said another concern is that a rise in cases could hurt the most vulnerable the most.

“Community members that are 65 and older are at highest risk for hospitalizations and deaths,” said Dr. Bowling.

It’s not about causing alarm, said Dr. Bowling, but providing awareness that the virus is not going away anytime soon.

“We need more people to get boosters. The number of total vaccinated has gone up, but the number of people that have gotten a third dose of vaccine that are eligible to do so is really low here, and it's actually lower than it is in Europe, where they're seeing increased cases and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Bowling.

For a list of vaccination sites in Bexar County visit covid19.sanantonio.gov.

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