BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With the Omicron sub-variant BA.2 now making up nearly one-quarter of U.S. COVID-19 cases, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman on Tuesday encouraged residents with symptoms to get tested and, if positive, receive treatment to prevent a surge in hospitalizations.

Pittman urged anyone who isn’t vaccinated “to go out and get that done while we have this lull between surges, to protect us for the next one.”

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Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said the new sub-variant is about 40% more transmissible than Omicron but has the same level of severity.

The county is in a much better place than it was last December at the start of the Omicron wave thanks to the availability of rapid tests, KN95 masks and oral treatments for the virus like Paxlovid, said Kalyanaraman.

“So we are in a different landscape,” he said. “We’ve obviously gone through the Omicron surge, and unfortunately a lot of people were infected, but that provides some level of immunity, at least for the short term.”

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On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Health reported 182 new COVID-19 cases. There are currently 175 people hospitalized with the virus and the statewide positivity rate is 1.43%.

Anne Arundel County has reported an additional 23 cases and two deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the local health department. The positivity rate in the county is 2%.

Kalyanaraman said Anne Arundel County is prepared to weather any increased caseloads with the fundamental tools of vaccinations, testing, masking for high-risk individuals, and treatment.

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“The message is very simple: We have the tools — use them,” said Pittman.

CBS Baltimore Staff