ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The new COVID variant BA-5 has made its way to New York State, with New York City recognized as the hub of new cases.

Monday, Dr. Emil Lesho of Rochester Regional Health weighed in on how this variant compares to others, as well as what we’re seeing so far in our region. 

While it is still early yet, Dr. Lesho says the BA-5 variant is more contagious but may not be as severe as other variants. Dr. Lesho says for the Rochester Regional Health hospital system, COVID cases and hospitalizations have plateaued.

As of last week, the data we were getting with each week that went by, the proportion of BA-5 of new tests by BA-5 was increasing in such that BA-5 is now the majority of new infections,” Dr. Lesho said.

He says the variant of omicron is considered more transmissible and may not be as severe as others. However, he says that doesn’t mean it’s not considered serious.

Not more severe should not be construed to mean not severe, or not serious in those who are susceptible to severe infections such as if you’re not fully vaccinated. The original parent strains were quite severe – it’s just now we have more tools, vaccines, if you don’t have access to those of you haven’t been fully vaccinated and boosted – these can be very severe,” said Dr. Lesho. 

More testing is also being conducted at RRH upon admission and on the second day of admission, which has helped healthcare staff detect more infections.

When it comes to more of a spread in Monroe County, Dr. Lesho says it’s too soon to tell.

Knock on wood — we’re holding steady right now and there hasn’t been a big increase yet,” said Dr. Lesho. 

Dr. Lesho also says there may come a time when a mask requirement might be considered again. But for now, he encourages those who feel comfortable to wear one. 

For those who have tested positive, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new, free hotline Monday at 8-8-8-Treat-NY.

According to the governor, the hotline is available 24-hours a day, and is operated by experienced health professionals who have the clinical training to prescribe treatment and referrals if needed.