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'We are watching it carefully' | Climbing COVID case numbers due to newer subvariant

BA.2 COVID sub variant giving rise to more positive cases, but not higher hospitalizations, says San Joaquin County Health Officer

STOCKTON, California — In the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases are seeing an uptick across the nation.

It comes after case numbers soared following the holidays in January and February, but then dropped dramatically in March through early April.

"It's not a huge surge, and we're watching it carefully," said San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park.

For the week ending April 22, there were 131 new cases in San Joaquin County. A month earlier for the week ending March 23, there were only 13 cases, according to the San Joaquin County Public Health Department.

Dr. Park attributes the rise to the newer BA.2 subvariant, and people like Lou Marine are concerned.

Marine is a hot dog vendor outside the San Joaquin County Courthouse on Weber Avenue in Downtown Stockton.

"I deal with a lot of people though. It's really hard to know who is vaccinated and who is not," said Marine, who is both vaccinated and boosted and said he has never contracted COVID.

Dr. Park said the BA.2 subvariant is more transmissible than the original omicron variant, but it doesn't appear  to be causing a big increase in the severity of hospitalizations. She said hospitalizations remain low, which is a key indicator because case numbers can be undercounted with people testing at home.

Despite most mask mandates gone, her advice is to keep your mask handy.

"Especially if you are in high risk of having a severe outcome with COVID, if you live with someone immunocompromised - older or perhaps too young to be vaccinated yet -, and it might be a good idea to continue to wear a mask in crowded situations," Park said.

As the Federal Drug Administration approves more vaccines for young children, Dr. Park said the county plans on initially having another mass vaccination site to accommodate them. 

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