A new subvariant of Omicron is on the rise. The good news is we have tools to protect against it. Here is what you need to know.
Since December, Omicron has become the dominant variant in the U.S. and across the world. However, as we have seen throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 continues to evolve. Omicron has mutated into multiple subvariants, including the BA.2 variant that threatens to become the dominant COVID-19 variant within the next few months. Here is what you need to know about BA.2 to help stay safe from serious COVID-19 illness.
1. Keep Vaccinations Up to Date
The initial waves of Omicron (BA.1, BA.1.1) caused milder COVID-19 illness in some people than earlier SARS-CoV-2 virus strains, studies are ongoing to determine if this is true for BA.2. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has said, “it doesn’t seem to evade our vaccines or immunity any more than the prior omicron [variant]. And it doesn’t seem to lead to any more increased severity of disease.”
Vaccinations continue to be the best way to protect against severe COVID-19 illness, and current guidelines strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to stay up to date. Being “up to date” on COVID-19 vaccines means you have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible.
Visit our COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker to learn more about available vaccines and timing for boosters.
2. Follow Local Transmission Rates
According to the CDC, BA.2 accounts for 23.1 percent of new cases in the U.S. as of March 12. Currently, cases are most prominent in the northeast and west. But the CDC is monitoring progress of BA.2 and all other variants, with weekly updates on their COVID-19 Data Tracker. But perhaps more importantly, keep your eye on the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels. That will tell you whether your area is at a low, medium or high-risk level and what precautions to take.
3. Continue with Protection Practices
The World Health Organization reports that BA.2 is more transmissible than the original BA.1 Omicron strain. About 45 percent of American’s contracted Omicron, which may give them some immunity against BA.2. Fortunately, the measures that are recommended to protect against earlier COVID-19 variants work for BA.2.
- Masking: Falling hospitalization rates have led to many states lifting mask mandates. However, if COVID-19 community levels are high in your area, you should keep your mask on for an extra layer of protection. It is also good practice to keep masks on in a crowded indoor environment and required when using public transportation. Learn more about masking.
- Handwashing: Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
- Testing: Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed. Testing is free to everyone in the U.S. Find a location here. You can also order free at-home tests for your household at Covidtests.gov.
About COVID-19 Variants
New variants of COVID-19 are expected. Viruses develop mutations over time. And as long as the virus continues to spread, we will see new variants emerge. Increasing the number of people vaccinated and boosted, as well as following protective measures to limit transmission, can help slow the emergence of new variants.
Learn more about other variants.
American Lung Assos.