By Stephanie Innes and Melina Walling |Arizona Republic
Arizonans who recently tested positive for COVID-19 are not alone. Reinfections are up, and so are cases in people who have been fully vaccinated and boosted.
As a wave of new COVID-19 infections that began in May continues statewide, two contagious subvariants of the virus — BA.4 and BA.5 — are increasingly driving cases. BA.5 is the more dominant of the two.
“I think what we’re seeing in Arizona reflects generally what we see in the country, which is the growing dominance of this BA.5 variant,” said Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute. “It is spreading everywhere.”
So far, evidence shows BA.5 is not only contagious but is particularly good at evading antibodies to COVID-19, which could explain why so many people are reporting second and even third infections from the coronavirus. Less clear is whether BA.5 will manifest in more serious illness than prior versions of the virus.
“It’s frustrating for patients because they’re often surprised to be reinfected,” said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician based in Phoenix and national medical director for One Medical.
“I’ve seen reinfections happen as quickly as three months (after a prior infection). … Sometimes they think they have allergies or they think there’s a different virus that they have. They often don’t believe they have COVID.”
Arizonans who have been vaccinated are getting COVID-19, too. LaBaer, in spite of being fully vaccinated and having two booster doses, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus for the first time on June 25. He had mild symptoms and suspects the vaccine prevented him from getting any sicker.