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Faye Flam

How Worried Should You Be About Omicron BA.5?

The latest variant will lead to a lot of reinfections, and more cases of long Covid, but won’t be as deadly as earlier waves.

What’s old is new again.

What’s old is new again.

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

The ways we think about the Covid pandemic have evolved with the virus: In 2020, it was a potentially deadly threat we could avoid by being careful; in 2021, it was something that was likely to infect everyone eventually; and now, it’s becoming seen as a persistent health hazard that can re-infect people multiple times, each time inflicting cumulative damage and increasing the odds of long-duration symptoms.

Now that most people have been infected, there’s really no other way a new variant can take over except by breaking through immunity from past infections and vaccinations. That’s one reason the Washington Post called BA.5, the currently circulating sub-variant of the highly transmissible omicron, “the worst variant.”