Increase in hospitalization as new COVID variant BA.2.86 spread

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There has been a new spike in COVID cases, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the last week alone hospitalizations are up twenty-one percent across the United States, and some of the highest numbers are in western Minnesota.

In Duluth, there are at least four new hospitalizations and we’re seeing senior care facilities with sudden rises in cases as national health officials are warning of the latest variant and the possible impact it could have on public health.

The new COVID variant, called BA.2.86 or Pirola is said to be the most mutated of all previous variants of the virus. it is not yet widespread in the U.S but cases have already been reported in several states.

Currently, COVID cases are relatively low here in the Twin Ports but experts say paying close attention to symptoms will help keep everyone safe. We spoke to Kathy Ronchi, she is a Health Officer at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in Douglas County.

“If you have symptoms like fever or any sort of illness, regardless of if you have a positive test or not, limit your access to people who might be vulnerable. And that includes young children. It includes the elderly. Also, if you think you might be around somebody who is having cancer treatments or any of those kinds of things. That accountability on people to manage their own health care and limit their exposures is still really important.”

Kathy also advises parents to be mindful of symptoms in their kids while highlighting the importance of been vaccinated.

“Make sure you are not behind on your vaccines as a child or an adult. This because if you got a vaccine preventable disease like pertussis or influenza or any of those things, then you got COVID on top of it, you could get sick. So, make sure your vaccines are up to date. This includes all your general routine vaccinations.

You can also take the following actions to prevent transmission:

  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Get tested for Covid-19 if needed.
  • Seek treatment if you have Covid and are at high risk of getting very sick.
  • Use high-quality masks that fit well over your nose and mouth.
  • Improve ventilation.
  • Wash your hands.

The CDC said we should expect updated vaccines mid-September.