BA.4 and BA.5 are now the dominant coronavirus strains in the U.S., and they’ve triggered another LA surge. On an airplane of 50 passengers or a restaurant of 20-30 diners, there’s a 90-99% chance that someone there has COVID, says Dr. Bob Wachter
LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said days ago, “BA.4 and BA.5 — special concern because of their apparent ability to cause reinfection in people who are already infected with other Omicron subvariants. … There’s strong evidence that they can spread faster than other subvariants.”
This is a time for caution, says Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at UCSF.
“Let's say you're boarding an airplane with, say, 50 people on it. There's about a 99% chance that somebody on that airplane has COVID. In a restaurant of 20 or 30 people around you, it's 90-95%,” he tells KCRW. “There is a lot of COVID around, and because this variant is more infectious than the last one, and the last one is more infectious than the one before it. If you're not being careful, there's a pretty decent chance that you can get it.”
That chance even applies if you’re vaccinated and double-boosted, he points out.
“Remember in the very beginning when vaccines came out, people said it's rare to get an infection if you're vaccinated. That's really obviously not true. Now there's a lot of breakthrough cases. But the real reason why you want to be vaccinated and boosted and double-boosted if you're eligible — is that it still works quite well in preventing a severe case. It just doesn't work super well in preventing a case.”
He advises people to wear N95 masks on airplanes and at indoor restaurants, but you should avoid those indoor eateries altogether.
“If you wear a good mask in situations where you're being exposed to a lot of people, the odds are really quite good that you can keep yourself safe,” he says.