The COVID-19 variant BA.5 is fueling a steady increase in positive cases in the Kansas City area. The omicron sub-variant appears to be highly contagious, although it does not appear to be causing more severe symptoms then previous variants of the virus. While deaths remain low, the current trend in infections is concerning to health officials in Kansas City. “If you’re going to go into big crowds there’s a lot of BA.5 out there,” Dr. Stephen Stites of the University of Kansas Health System said during a news briefing last week. 

Last week, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, updated Jackson and Wyandotte to a ‘high’ risk of community transmission following a spike in cases. According to the CDC’s website, the COVID-19 community levels are determined by looking at COVID-19 hospital admissions, total cases and current hospitalizations each week.

Around the metro case numbers remain high. According to data from the Mid-America Regional Council, there were 794 new cases reported in Kansas City, Missouri on July 19, which is the highest case count since January and over a 40% increase from two weeks ago.

In Kansas infections have also steadily increased. According to the Wyandotte County Health Department, infections have been rising since mid-march, when the seven-day average was between three and four new cases. The most current data shows a seven-day average of 43 cases. Which is nearly a 40% increase from one month ago when the seven-day average was nearly 31 cases. According to Stites with cases going up, using a face mask might be the next step in combating infection. “Wearing a mask, especially if you’re at high risk, might be a good idea,” Stites said.

Many health experts believe cases could be even higher since those numbers do not include positive results from home tests. “Remember a lot of cases are not being talked about to us (doctors), because they’re being tested at home,” Dr. Stites said

The rise of the BA.5 variant has also spurred concerns over its enhanced ability to evade protection given by vaccines and antibodies from prior infections, with reports of individuals who have previously been infected becoming reinfected. While the BA.5 variant has shown to be less lethal then previous variants it is believed to be more transmissible according to the CDC. Doctors continue to urge individuals to get vaccination if they are not and get tested for COVID-19  if they are experiencing  symptoms. 

“We also know that if you’re fully vaccinated and boosted your chances of landing in the ICU are a lot lower,” Stites said.