OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – While the number of new COVID-19 cases have dropped in the Sooner State, health experts across the globe are bracing for another possible surge.

In the U.N. health agency’s weekly report on the pandemic issued late Tuesday, WHO said there were more than 11 million new COVID-19 infections last week – about an 8% rise – and 43,000 new deaths. The number of COVID-19 deaths globally has been dropping for the past three weeks.

“COVID’s not gone,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief COVID Officer.

The biggest increase in cases were seen in the Western Pacific and Africa, where infections rose by 29% and 12% respectively. In Europe, cases inched up by about 2%.

The jump in cases is being blamed on the stealth omicron variant, which is even more contagious than the original omicron variant.

“It’s a subvariant of the original omicron. It’s even more contagious than omicron, but doesn’t appear to cause any more severe disease,” he said.

In the United States, Bratzler says 23% of new COVID-19 cases are being contributed to the stealth omicron variant.

“In the nation, we have not seen cases rising of COVID-19, so that’s good news. Even though it’s kind of taking over for omicron, it doesn’t appear to be increasing our case counts, hospitalizations, or complications,” Dr. Bratzler said.

For our region of the country, 18% of new cases are due to the variant.

“So it is here, it is in Oklahoma, but so far, despite the fact that we have this new subvariant circulating, we haven’t seen cases going up,” he said.

Dr. Bratzler stresses that even though Oklahoma’s numbers aren’t soaring, this new variant could cause issues for the elderly and those with comorbidities.

As for the future, experts say they can’t be sure how this new variant will impact the community.

Bratzler says case counts may go up, but he’s not expecting a huge surge like Oklahoma saw with the delta and omicron variants.

“When we look at the epidemiologic models, we do see that case counts may go up some. And at least the way I look at our COVID data, maybe they are starting to a little bit, but we’re not expecting a huge surge like we saw in December/ January with omicron or this past summer with the delta variant. At this point, we don’t,” he said. “As I tell everybody, the one unknown variable is will there be a new variant that evades the protection you get from previous infections or from being vaccinated, so that would be the one unknown variable that we can’t predict.”