DC monitoring COVID-19 omicron subvariant in District

D.C. Health on Friday said they’re monitoring the arrival of the BA. 2 COVID-19 omicron subvariant in the District.

The good news is, there aren’t many cases in D.C. At least, not yet.

Deputy Director Patrick Ashley told D.C. Council members during a call that “about four” samples were found last week. This week, there were two.

Ashley said D.C. has signed a contract for “additional variant surveillance going on now that we did not have done before.”

He cautioned that the BA. 2 subvariant — which has been referred to as the “stealth variant,” according to the AMA — is “more virulent than what we’re currently seeing circulating.”

“So we do expect at some point, if it performs as expected, that it will overtake BA. 1 … that’s just the way viruses work,” Ashley said, noting that was what health officials saw with the delta variant moving to omicron.

“The question, really, that we should be asking, and we are talking about, is: Does this just replace the current cases that are in the community at the rate that we’re at? Or does it cause additional cases in the community? And more importantly, does it cause additional morbidity and mortality?”

Ashley said the concern would be if D.C. were to see increased case rates, as well as additional hospitalizations and deaths.

“That’s actually what we pay more attention to than what is the sort of circulating variant right now,” Ashley said.

He urged residents who haven’t done so to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.

“By the time we’re thinking about that as the public at large, it’s too late,” Ashley said. “The message to the constituents is really about, ‘Now is the time to get vaccinated and boosted,’ especially among our seniors.”

Ashley said less than half of D.C. seniors have gotten a booster.

“We know that the booster provides the most protection. But … it takes two to three weeks to actually get that protection,” Ashley said. “Now is the time to get it, not when we discover that we’re having more BA. 2, or whatever the next variant happens to be.”

While D.C.’s own indoor mask mandate expires at the end of February, and business can still require them to be worn, but City Administrator Kevin Donahue said lifting the mask mandate for schools is “not a conversation that we’re having right now.”

He said there won’t be a change to mask policies for schools or education settings.

However, updated guidance from D.C. Health published Thursday says children under 2 in child care facilities have to quarantine for 10 days if they’re exposed. Kids 2 and up have to quarantine for a minimum of seven days.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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