State health officials monitor new omicron subvariant


The nation’s top medical adviser has repeatedly said that COVID-19 is unlikely to be completely eradicated. Instead of, Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts a less dangerous strain of the virus will become predominant – making the virus endemic.

But the introduction of new variants could slow or reverse the decline in infections — prolonging the pandemic, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the state Department of Health Services, said at a Thursday press briefing.

After being detected in Wisconsin on Monday, fewer than five cases of the omicron subvariant BA.2 have been discovered in the state. The subvariant is thought to be more contagious than the original omicron variant, but there’s no evidence that it causes more severe disease or that existing vaccines don’t work against it, Westergaard said.

“Do reasonable things to try to avoid that,” Westergaard said. “It’s not a virus that everyone wants.”

Although available data show that BA.2 generally causes mild illness in vaccinated and vaccinated people, it can cause severe illness in unvaccinated people. Because of this, Westergaard urged Wisconsin residents to get vaccinated and boosted.

The number of statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations fell after peaking on January 12, but hospital capacity remains stretched due to ongoing staffing shortages in hospitals and nursing homes. To ease the shortage, the Wisconsin National Guard appealed to its members to train as Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs.

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On Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers announced another 70 National Guard members had completed two weeks of training as ANC and had been assigned to 17 long-term care facilities across the state.

“The Wisconsin National Guard has been an invaluable part of our efforts throughout the pandemic, and this mission is no different,” Evers said in a statement.

The troops who began work this week join about 50 other troops who were previously assigned to long-term care facilities across Wisconsin earlier this year. Guard troops currently assist as CNAs at facilities at Mineral Point, Wisconsin Dells, La Crosse, New London, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Cornell, Woodville, Sturgeon Bay, Suring, Antigo, Weyauwega, Kaukauna, Kenosha, Waunakee, Glendale and Racine.


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