Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's chief medical adviser

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's chief medical adviser Credit: Greg Nash/Pool

COVID-19 cases across the United States are expected to rise due to the new subvariant, BA. 2, national health experts said Sunday, but they are hopeful it will not lead to a surge.

Scientists are carefully tracking BA. 2, one of several subvariants to emerge from the omicron variant that was responsible for a steep spike in COVID-19 cases this winter.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said BA. 2, which is more contagious than the original omicron, accounts for about 85% of new cases across the world. It is still around 30% in the United States, he said.

“We likely will see an uptick in cases as we've seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K., where they've had the same situation as we've had now,” Fauci said Sunday during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

“They have BA.2. They have a relaxation of some restrictions such as indoor masking and there's a waning of immunity,” he said, adding to best way to prevent any possible surge is for people to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. 

Fauci said about 65% of the population of the United States has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and only about half of the people eligible for a booster shot have received them.

Figures from the New York State Health Department released Sunday show a small bump in COVID-19 cases, but the numbers remain much lower than during the omicron surge, prompting public officials to allow pandemic restrictions to remain on hold.

On Long Island, the seven-day average of positive test results was 1.89% on Saturday, up from 1.88% on Friday and 1.78% on Thursday. Back in January, during the height of the omicron surge, that number was over 26%.

The state recorded 2,013 new positive COVID-19 test results from Saturday including 117 in Nassau County and 96 in Suffolk County.

The state is continuing to sequence samples of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 to monitor variants and subvariants. Among samples collected between Feb. 27 and March 12, 100% were the omicron variant and 38.5% were found to be of the lineage, or subvariant, BA.2.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the focus should be on “preparation, not on panic” during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

“COVID hasn’t gone away,” Murthy said. “There may be rises and falls in cases in the months ahead. … If we get people these tools: vaccines, boosters, treatments, we can get through waves.” 

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