ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Two subvariants of the COVID-19 omicron BA.2 variant have been identified in New York. Subvariants BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 were found by the Wadsworth Laboratory and according to the New York Department of Health (DOH), are contributing to increased COVID cases in the central part of the state.

The omicron variant BA.2 which includes both subvariants is now behind 80.6% of all COVID cases in New York, the DOH said Wednesday. This is up from 11.4% on February 26, according to the DOH variant tracker.

In Central New York, west of the Capital Region, the DOH said the omicron subvariants accounted for 70% of cases in March but that grew to 90% in April. They said this is the first time instances of significant community spread attributed to these variants have been recorded. However, they said there is no evidence that the subvariants cause more severe symptoms.

“We are alerting the public to two Omicron subvariants, newly emerged and rapidly spreading in upstate New York, so New Yorkers can act swiftly,” said DOH Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “While these subvariants are new, the tools to combat them are not.”

The DOH is recommending New Yorkers:

  • Get fully vaccinated and boosted when eligible
  • Consider wearing a mask in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status
  • Get tested if they are exposed to someone who has COVID, has symptoms, or travels
  • Stay home if they have a positive COVID test and consult with a healthcare provider about treatments
  • Improve air ventilation or gather outdoors to reduce transmission and the risk of severe disease for the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays

Statewide COVID cases have risen over the past month. There were 6,546 cases on April 12, up from 1,770 cases on March 12. The seven-day rolling average was 4.4% in April up from 1.4% in March.

73.9% of New York’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID and 57.8% of eligible New Yorkers have gotten a booster shot as of April 14. People aged 12 or older can get a booster shot if it’s been at least five months since they’ve completed their initial vaccination series, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As of April 11, the DOH said there have been 1,252,487 laboratory-confirmed breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated people. As of April 4, vaccine effectiveness is estimated to be 68.1% in preventing reinfection, and 88.9% effective at preventing hospitalization.