Arizona health expert says new COVID variant not more dangerous than previous versions

Apr 20, 2022, 4:45 AM

(File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)...

(File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(File Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — An Arizona public health expert says a new variant of COVID-19 has taken over the state, but it’s not any more lethal or dangerous than previous versions of the virus.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Public Health Association, said Tuesday that the BA.2 variant is slightly more contagious than the original omicron strain, but doesn’t see the virus resulting in a return of restrictions.

“I don’t see it as any kind of a game changer,” Humble told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

“It’s here, it’s going to be here. We’re in the endemic phase of this.”

The variant is responsible for a vast majority of cases in the country, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed to as a reason to extend the mask mandate for public transportation until May 3 and allow more time to study the strain.

However, a federal judge struck down that mandate on Monday, saying the CDC failed to justify its decision and did not follow proper rulemaking procedures that left it fatally flawed.

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport announced after the decision that it would no longer require masks for visitors or employees.

Humble said he doesn’t see a compelling reason to bring back COVID restrictions in Arizona, adding only a total reboot of the virus is what it would take for him to advise a return of mask mandates.

“I think it would have to be a brand new variant that escaped the immunity that we’ve all achieved either through vaccination or previous infections,” he said. “It would have to be a game changing new variant that was a like COVID-22 or something like that.”

He does recommend people who have chronic medical conditions talk to their doctor about receiving a fourth vaccination shot.

“The best thing is to always talk to your primary care doctor and and see what they say,” Humble said. “But the benefits outweigh the risk. That’s for sure for everybody and the benefits are bigger in those high-risk populations.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona health expert says new COVID variant not more dangerous than previous versions