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Are COVID cases being undercounted amid an omicron surge?

Experts say that it’s clear that that BA.5 is driving up cases, but that the reported number of infections has stayed abnormally low

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An illustration of coronavirus.

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

The omicron subvariant BA.5 became the most dominant variant in the United States last week. While hospitalizations and deaths remain low, this strain has mutations that allow it to evade antibodies acquired through vaccination or previous infection, or both.

BA.5 accounts for a total of 53.6% of all new infections in the U.S., while its sister subvariant, BA.4, has a hold over 16.5% of infections. The daily average number of cases as of June 10 climbed up to more than 107,000.

But some experts say this number has stayed abnormally low during a wave.

“There’s no question in my mind that we’re missing a vast majority of infections right now,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told NBC News last week.

“The truth is, there are probably several hundred thousand, four or five hundred thousand, infections today happening across the country.”

Why are COVID-19 cases being undercounted?

A big reason for the low number of reported cases may be the popularity of at-home COVID-19 tests and a lack of reporting when the result of an at-home test is positive.

Data from the Institute for Health Metrics, a research center at the University of Washington, suggested that the actual number of cases in the first week of July should have been seven times higher than what was reported, per CNN.

What are the top omicron symptoms?

As I previously reported, omicron subvariants have a shorter incubation period, which is why the symptoms may appear earlier.

The most common omicron-related symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Congestion.
  • Runny nose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed common symptoms for COVID-19. The symptoms are:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Headache.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • Congestion or runny nose.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.