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Getting Answers: What's The Deal With The Current COVID Variants?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — New variants of COVID-19 are, likely, to continue at a rapid pace and with them comes the potential they could become highly transmissible. This is why infectious disease doctors in Northern California tell CBS13 the risk of COVID still exists.

Three doctors from across Northern California at UC Davis, Stanford, and UC San Francisco answered CBS13's questions about the future of COVID, the current Omicron subvariants, and why, anecdotally, it feels like the risk of reinfection or first-time infection with COVID-19 is at an all time high.

The positivity rate in California over the last week is 13.2% and the number of COVID-19 diagnostic test results in California reached a total of 174,882,919, an increase of 525,804 tests from the prior day total.

"Because omicron is changing so quickly, people that got infected with BA 2 easily susceptible to new kids on the block BA 4 and BA 5," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a Professor and Associate Dean for Regional Campuses at UC San Francisco.

Chin-Hong described the current COVID situation in Northern California as a, "slow burn," in that, positive cases have remained steady recently with the Omicron variants edging previous variants out.

"When people started to move around more, and when people started to move into our area, it is moving risk around," said Chin-Hong.

"The reason it seems like we may not have more infection is because we aren't testing accordingly, or a lot of these tests are being done at home," said Abraar Karan, an Infectious Disease Doctor at Stanford.

He said people are not going to be sick longer, but that the variant is contagious.

Should we expect another wave? Experts say it's not a matter of if, but when. Experts say it goes back to three things: pandemic fatigue, variants that are more transmissible, and fewer mitigation efforts of prevention.

"This omicron surge has been very long, its basically been a number of sub variants competing and out competing with each other," said Karan.

On if the dominant Omicron variants are the worst we've seen so far, Dr. Dean Blumberg said, it's likely, "yes."

"It must be the worst version because it has a selective advantage, in terms of transmission, so its more efficiently transmitted," said Dr. Blumberg Chief, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UC Davis Health.

Ultimately, experts say continuing to mask in high-transmissible situations is recommended, along with staying updated on vaccinations.

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