AUSTIN (KXAN) — It has been a blissful start to summer with low case numbers and many having the option to shed their masks, but health officials are warning against getting too comfortable just yet.
As COVID-19 indicators start to trend slightly upward again, here’s what you need to know:
What are these new subvariants?
Austin Public health confirmed this week that the BA.2, BA.4 and BA. 5 subvariants have been detected locally. Those omicron offshoots have common symptoms such as a running nose, sneezing, and sore throat in addition to more traditional COVID symptoms like fever, muscle and body aches and fatigue.
Do I need another booster shot?
Right now, a second booster shot is still only recommended for people 50 and older or people who are 12 and older who are immunocompromised (such as people in active cancer treatment, people who have received an organ transplant and are taking immune-suppressing medications and people with advanced or untreated HIV).
That said, it is likely a second round of booster shots will be recommended for people come fall.
This week, Moderna announced in a news release that its redesigned booster shot appears to better protect against the omicron variant and its subvariants. They called it the best candidate for a fall rollout.
“We anticipate more durable protection against variants of concern with mRNA-1273.214, making it our lead candidate for a Fall 2022 booster,” CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a ‘find out when to get a booster’ tool on their website that allows you to input age and health conditions. The tool will tell you when is best to get those booster shots. You can find the tool here.
Health leaders recommend you have a conversation with your primary health care provider to see what they recommend for you individually.
What’s going on with vaccines for children?
Shots for children under five could be coming before the end of this month, according to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to take its look at the Pfizer and Moderna shots for our youngest portion of the population next week. After that, the CDC will be tasked with issuing its recommendation, which they’re expected to do quickly.
“We’re going to ship doses out as fast as possible,” Jha told reporters during a White House press briefing. “We’re going to make sure that supply is always meeting demand. And we’re going to do everything we can to make it easy for providers and parents alike to get their kids vaccinated.”
What’s happening with case numbers?
In Central Texas, Austin Public Health officials said they are monitoring upward-trending COVID-19 case numbers, specifically keeping an eye on the positivity rate.
“There’s been a slow, steady increase in our case numbers,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said. “We have to remember though, that we have underreporting of case numbers, because there are people who are doing home testing, and those cases are not being reported to the health department or the state.”
While the COVID risk remains in the low category for much of Texas, several key metrics are on the upswing. Most notably, the molecular positive rate — the percent of PCR tests that return a positive result — has surpassed the peak we saw during the delta variant surge last summer in our state.
The seven-day average positive rate is currently 19.44%, compared to the delta surge peak of 18.73%. The chart below shows a steady increase in the positive rate since the start of April.
The current surge in the positive rate is still nowhere near what we saw during the omicron surge last winter, when more than a third of all tests were returning positive results.
Meanwhile, the number of new cases reported each day is also rising. Texas is currently reporting an average of 4,798 new confirmed cases every day.
You can read more about the current COVID-19 data in Texas here.