The new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 has been detected in one case in Lorain County, the Ohio Department of Health said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers BA.2.86 a notable variant because it contains a number of mutations that make it distinct from other circulating lineages.
“At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing any more severe illness, hospitalizations or deaths,” ODH director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said.
There have been at least 23 other human cases caused by BA.2.86, including two in the United States, in Michigan and Virginia. It also has been confirmed in Canada (1 case), Denmark (10), Israel (1), Portugal (2), the United Kingdom (1), Sweden (4), and South Africa (2).
“It still is a new variant, and they’re still monitoring it and studying it,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager of Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County.
Ohio is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations with ODH reporting 7,821 new cases and 171 hospitalizations between Aug. 25-31. Nationally, hospitalizations have increased 18.8% in the most recent week, and deaths related to COVID have increased 21.4%, according to the CDC.
Cases in Montgomery County saw a 24.8% increase with 673 cases between Aug. 17-31, according to Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. This is a 70.4% decrease for this same time period in 2022. There have also been 50 hospitalizations in this same time period, a 48% increase from the previous two-week period but a 60% decrease from that same time last year.
Southwest Ohio is seeing increases in the number of people currently hospitalized as an inpatient with COVID-19, though the CDC still has all of Ohio listed as having a low rate of hospital admissions with rates of under 10 people per 100,000. There are 50 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in southwest Ohio, according to the Ohio Hospital Association, which is one in 59 inpatients. This is a 23% increase over the last week and a 59% increase over the last 21 days, the association’s dashboard says.
“Warren County has seen an increase in COVID cases overall recently,” said Allison Combs, public information officer for the Warren County Health District.
Clark County has also been seeing increases in COVID cases as they continue to monitor information on the new variant in circulation.
“Variant BA.2.86 is certainly something we’re watching and keeping an eye on as it emerges as predominant strain, but at this point, there is no evidence the variant is causing more severe illness leading to more hospitalizations or death than other recent variants,” said Nate Smith, communications coordinator for the Clark County Combined Health District.
The Clark County Combined Health District also has free at-home COVID test kits available at 529 E. Home Road office.
“We encourage people to stock up on those and have some ready in the event they become symptomatic,” Smith said.
There are currently 11 people in southwest Ohio in the ICU with COVID-19, which is one in 44 ICU patients, according to the Ohio Hospital Association. This is a 71% increase over the last week and a 140% increase over the past 21 days.
Ohioans should stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations as the best way to prevent serious illness, ODH said, and people should also stay home if they are sick.
“It’s very important to stay home when you’re sick, and if you have symptoms of COVID, you should do a home COVID test to determine if you test positive or not,” Suffoletto said. “If you were to test positive, then you would continue to do the isolation procedures that are currently in place.”
Those isolation procedures include isolating for five days, he said. If symptoms improve, individuals can end isolation after five days and continue wearing a face mask for 10 days.
For further guidance, visit the CDC’s website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.