Will BA.2 impact omicron forecasts? 3 modeling takeaways

U.S. COVID-19 cases have been declining for more than two weeks, though that decline may slow as the BA.2 variant — a subvariant of omicron — becomes more widespread, according to a 14-day forecast from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic.

Three things to know:

1. The rate of average daily COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was 184.1 per 100,000 people as of Jan. 30, down from a peak of 247.6 per 100,000 on Jan. 15.

2. Mayo Clinic's 14-day forecast projects the case rate will continue to decrease through Feb. 13; however, modeling shows a bump may occur on the way down in early February. 

3. Researchers from across the country say it's still unclear how BA.2 will affect COVID-19 forecasts. Preliminary research suggests the subvariant may spread more quickly than the original strain, which could prolong the current surge. 

"I'm fairly certain that it will become dominant in the U.S.," Nathan Grubaugh, PhD, epidemiologist at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University School of Public Health, told The New York Times. "But I don't yet know what that would mean for the pandemic."

The BA.2 variant could spark a new surge, but it's more probable that U.S. cases overall will continue to decrease, according to Dr. Grubaugh. If anything, the variant may simply slow the decline.  

Note: Mayo Clinic uses a Bayesian statistical model to forecast cases that automatically updates as new data becomes available. There is an uncertainty interval for forecast values, with lower and upper bounds that are not included in this list. To learn more about the data Mayo Clinic uses to forecast hot spots, click here. Becker's pulled the forecast values on Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. CST. 


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