Measured Reassurance in the Face of BA.2
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Measured Reassurance in the Face of BA.2

While numbers of COVID cases in the United States continue to decline, other places in the world are experiencing a bump in cases related to a new variant of COVID-19. It’s a spin-off of Omicron called BA.2, and it leaves many people with lots of questions. Here’s what doctors and public health officials are thinking about this most recent variant:

  • There’s a lot we still don’t know about BA.2, like exactly how contagious it is or whether it causes more severe illness compared to Omicron. Despite these unknowns, doctors and public health professionals are not yet raising alarm.  
  • Earlier in the pandemic, it was easier to predict what would happen here based on COVID data being logged across the world. Back then, we all had the same mitigation strategies and treatment options: not many. That is no longer the case. Differences in vaccines administered in different countries and the number of people vaccinated along with differences in medications available in other parts of the world make predictions based on faraway places less reliable than ever. Whether BA.2 will cause an increase in infections here is still unclear.
  • We have a lot of factors working in our favor. Public health teams are still 100% focused on monitoring and reporting. You can see the current activity in your area at  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html. Testing systems are in place and people are accustomed to using them. Immunity from vaccination and previous infection is high. And, we have highly effective treatments—monoclonal antibodies, antivirals, and others—all readily available. Most of all, after two years of pandemic conditions, we have learned how to ramp up vaccination and testing efforts within just a few days, if needed. For all of these reasons, an increase in infections might not relate to an increase in severe cases, hospitalizations, and deaths here in the United States.
  • At this time, there is no reason to change our behavior or policy. See the most recent guidance here: https://svhealthcare.org/Wellness-Connection/new-covid-guidance. Just as we noted a few weeks ago, everyone should be fully up to date with their vaccines. Also, pay attention to a reliable news outlet and our public health professionals in case there are announcements about administering an additional vaccine dose or reinstituting mask wearing in public.

Whether this latest variant hits hard or doesn’t says nothing about other variants that could arise in the future. That’s why we will remain ready for whatever comes our way.

Marie George, MD, FIDSA, is an infectious disease specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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