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The more contagious BA.2 version of omicron is now the most common in the U.S.

Lylliette Ramirez gets a COVID-19 test done by a healthcare worker in January in North Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Lylliette Ramirez gets a COVID-19 test done by a healthcare worker in January in North Miami, Florida.

A subvariant of omicron that's even more contagious than the original is now the most common coronavirus strain in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC estimates that the BA.2 strain now accounts for more than half — 54.9% — of coronavirus infections nationwide, according to new data.

It's even more prevalent in certain parts of the country. For example, over 70% of COVID-19 cases in the Northeast are BA.2, the CDC estimates.

The BA.2 variant does not appear to make people any sicker than the original omicron strain of the coronavirus, and vaccines still offer protection against it.

But health experts had feared that the highly transmissible variant could trigger another surge in cases in the U.S., as it has in the U.K. and other parts of Europe.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized and the CDC recommended a second booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for older people and certain immunocompromised people.

The authorization comes at an opportune time, some health experts say, since an uptick in people protected by vaccines and boosters could help limit the number of deaths and hospitalizations caused by BA.2.

At the same time, CDC estimates show no known infections caused by the once-common delta variant between March 20 and 26.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez

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