Living with Covid – Riding the Next Wave
The next wave of Covid is just starting to break on our shores. Wastewater viral particle analysis indicates that BA.2 has arrived on the Northeast. This latest strain, a sub-variant of Omicron, which has already led to a surge of cases in Europe, is now fast becoming the dominant variant here in the US and globally. Even more infectious than Omicron, BA.2 has not overwhelmed hospitals in Europe largely because of high vaccination and booster rates. An additional factor theorized to add protection is previous exposure to Omicron which may have conferred some natural immunity in addition to the vaccines. However, caution and increased vigilance is once again warranted here in the US largely because fewer than 70% of Americans over the age of 65 have had their first booster and many older Americans who had boosters in the fall have waning protection.
For the unvaccinated, unless they have had a recent Omicron infection, this population remains highly susceptible to a BA.2 Covid infection. Adding fuel to the fire is a widespread feeling of covid fatigue. Now into our third year of the pandemic, folks are generally fed-up of social distancing and wearing masks. With mask mandates now being lifted in many communities, everyone must make their own decisions on how best to protect themselves and their loved ones. The good news is that this go around, we have many more tools at our disposal. These include second booster shots available for those aged 50 and over and 12 or older who are immunosuppressed. There are ample Covid home testing kits available and a widespread supply of high-quality KN95 masks. For those who contract Covid and are symptomatic in the first few days of exposure, there are oral anti-viral treatments now available by prescription and IV monoclonal antibody infusions available in urgent care and ED departments. Situational awareness and strategically employing the use of masks and social distancing will be key to minimizing exposure. Check the local infectivity rates of your community travel destination through the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention – green indicates low community risk but if the map changes to yellow or orange, more caution is needed, and masks should be worn in large public space gatherings and indoor gatherings until green levels are restored. If you are eligible for a booster, consider getting one, especially if infectivity rates are rising in your community. Gather outdoors for social events and test if you have been exposed or have symptoms. Common sense and shared responsibility can help ensure that you and your loved ones surf this next wave smoothly to shore.