"Over 95% of the cases we see are omicron. We have just a handful, maybe a pair of cases that are the new subtype of omicron," said Dr. Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County Public Health Officer, during a virtual town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Ro Khanna.
In the U.S., 96 cases have been identified as the new omicron BA.2 variant and scientists are monitoring it closely to determine whether it is any more infectious or deadly.
"It has a different pattern, but so far we don't know how it behaves," said Dr. Cody.
The new omicron BA.2 variant has been identified in at least 40 countries and is spreading quickly.
The World Health Organization says investigations of BA.2 "should be prioritized."
"It's dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the end game," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization Director-General.
As the nation confronts the COVID-19 spike from the original omicron variant, federal data shows more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals have reported critical staffing shortages in the past few weeks.
On Tuesday, Pfizer launched a study of its new booster shots, designed specifically to target the omicron variant. The study involves more than 1,400 adults and will test Pfizer's original vaccine against a specially formulated omicron-based shot.
"It makes sense to think in terms of at least having ready an omicron-specific boost," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Cody says the biggest challenge for people right now is trying to stay vigilant and maintain COVID precautions.
"There's a level of exhaustion, a level of trauma with everything that everyone has been through, and yet the road ahead still has a lot of uncertainty," said Dr. Cody. "We've been through five waves locally. I imagine there will be more waves to come. And what we don't know is what the next peak will look like."
Dr. Cody says she is encouraged by the high level of vaccination rates in the Bay Area and the declining number of hospitalizations.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.