Minnesota health officials say Omicron subvariant could bring wave of COVID-19 cases

The latest data from Minnesota's wastewater surveillance program

More than two years after the pandemic began, doctors say COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, and they’re warning about a subvariant.

National and local health officials say a subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, could cause cases to rise again.

"We will see more waves. That’s almost I'd say guaranteed. We don't know exactly what omicron is doing. We don't know what COVID-19 will look like in the future," Dr. George Morris, COVID lead physician with CentraCare Health told FOX 9.

Morris said he expects BA.2 to lead to more COVID-19 cases, but not as severe as the surges brought by delta and the first omicron variant.

"I think we have to be prepared and plan for these next waves, and I feel we can handle that. I feel we can handle that without major shutdowns. Minor disruptions? Yes," Morris said.

The Minnesota Department of Health said it’s seeing a rise in the percentage of omicron cases that BA.2 is accounting for in its surveillance data, but it’s not seeing a corresponding rise in overall cases yet.

Morris said, with the cases he is seeing, they have not translated to a large uptick in severe illness, including hospitalizations or deaths. He said the good news is people have extra protection from the vaccines and there's likely residual immunity from those who were sick from the last variants. 

However, there are still reasons to be cautious.

"We don't know who has chronic illnesses. We don't know who has a poor immune response. And that is why we really have to think about ourselves in this broader community," he said.

Doctors say there are still risks in large gatherings. Getting vaccinated and boosted will help decrease those risks, along with staying home when someone is not feeling well.

"Have a backup plan: What am I going to do if it's my niece's wedding, and I can't go? Send a card," he said.

With spring holidays, such as Easter and Passover, coming up soon, Morris said people should think about their elderly family members and think about holding gatherings outside.