As mask mandates and other COVID-19 protocols are being lifted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the Omicron subvariant, dubbed BA.2, makes up nearly 12% of all variants in the U.S.

According to multiple studies, BA.2 is known to be more contagious than its predecessor and is also spreading rapidly around the world. BA.2 reportedly causes different symptomscompared to previous strains, such as dizziness. A recent study conducted in Japan found that the subvariant of Omicron doesn't just spread more easily, but could also cause more severe disease than the original.

As nearly 20 million vaccines have been administered in New York City and cases continue to drop, Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city "is back," explaining multiple changes to COVID-19 protocols, including the removal of mask mandates in certain areas. According to data from the state’s health department, however, the spread of BA.2 is increasing every two weeks.

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to fade, people are now wondering if we are entering the end of the pandemic.

Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Financial Times in February that the U.S. is finally approaching a stage of normality regarding the virus.

“As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of COVID-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated,” he said. “There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus.”