As Americans eagerly toss aside their masks and rejoin gatherings of unmasked friends, colleagues and even strangers, the latest variant of COVID-19 continues to spread among them.

This despite yet another a pronounced uptick in cases of the Omicron BA2 variant, particularly in the Northeast, over the last two weeks, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Numbers are rising, although they still remain way below past peak surge levels,” noted Ulysses Wu, MD, medical director of infectious disease at Hartford HealthCare.

In addition, with hospitalizations and deaths from the latest variant still remaining low, he said he believes that the current situation might be considered more of a ripple of infectious activity than a wave.

“We don’t know for sure, but it seems that illness with this variant is less serious than other previous variants,” Dr. Wu said, adding that he expects the activity to fizzle soon.

The situation could also be due to the population’s collective boosted immunity, both as a result of vaccination rates, people receiving a second booster shot and high rates of antibodies circulating due to infection from the Omicron wave this past the winter, he said.

Because there is really no end to the number of COVID variations that can strike the population, Wu said people should still wear masks when they are indoors with crowds of others. He stopped short of suggesting communities should reinstate their mask mandates, a move recently announced by the mayor of Philadelphia due to the Omicron BA2 spread.