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Staff reports | The highly contagious subvariant of omicron, omicron BA.2, or “stealth omicron” has become the dominant coronavirus variant in the U.S., according to reports from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The subvariant accounts for nearly 55% of COVID infection samples that have undergone genetic sequencing, according to a Tuesday report. Prevalence remains the highest in the Northeast, and its infection rate has increased significantly since the start of the year — from about 1% in January to 54.9% on March 26. 

The variant has been dubbed “stealth” due to the lack of a genetic marker the original omicron had that allowed health officials to easily differentiate it from the previous delta variant. Omicron BA.2 has been found in more than 80 countries and all U.S. states. 

At the same time, the nearly 17 million Americans who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are less protected against serious illness and hospitalizations than those who received an mRNA vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna, according to CDC data released Tuesday. The report analyzed the results of mix-and-match vaccine-and-booster combinations during a four-month period while the highly contagious omicron variant was dominant. 

The report has led several health experts from around the country to recommend Americans who received the J&J vaccine to get a mRNA booster as soon as they are eligible. 

Latest COVID-19 data

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) transitioned to weekly reporting of new COVID data this month, with today’s update being the most recent of reports including data taken from March 20-26.

South Carolina health officials on Tuesday reported 1,095 total new cases of COVID-19, with 650 confirmed, and 10 total new deaths, 8 of which were confirmed. As of March 26, 171 COVID-19-positive individuals are hospitalized, and 14 COVID-19-positive individuals are ventilated.

No positivity rate was reported by DHEC.

  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ with at least one vaccine: 66.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 12+ who have completed vaccination: 57.7%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 with at least one vaccine: 19.8%
  • Percentage of S.C. residents age 5-11 who have completed vaccination: 16%

For more information, visit the S.C. SCDHEC COVID-19 dashboard.