As COVID-19 precautions loosen and people feel the effects of “pandemic fatigue,” people have many questions about what is safe/unsafe and whether there are new variants they should be aware of. We spoke with Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis’ (VNA) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mary Fox to get the latest updates regarding COVID-19 and how we can stay protected amid a changing landscape.
Is COVID-19 over?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not over. The bad news is that the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron is alive and well and very contagious. The good news is that the infections it’s causing are not as severe in most people as they were in the previous Omicron, Delta and Alpha strains.
How severe is the BA.2 subvariant?
Data looking at severity of illness in people infected with BA.2 definitely indicates vaccinated and boosted people are becoming less ill than unvaccinated people. So, generally, speaking, the vast majority of those with this variant will have very minor symptoms that resolve within a few days.
What can I do if I am infected with COVID-19?
Of course, you should immediately quarantine, wear a mask and take any other CDC-recommended measures to protect those around you. We also now have Paxlovid, the new antiviral med for COVID-19 infection, and it seems to be very effective for decreasing the severity and duration of illness in high risk populations. However, not every person in these groups can take it due to certain medication interactions.
What can I do to decrease my risk for the BA.2 subvariant?
Prevention is always the best medicine, so VNA promotes and may offer COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to those who qualify. Masking is a separate and ever-changing issue in the wider St. Louis community that we defer to local public health officials. However, VNA recommends masking in indoor and/or crowded public places when possible and anytime you feel uncomfortable with your surroundings, especially if you have serious illnesses that put you at risk for more serious infections.
How is the summer going to look regarding COVID-19?
The BA.2 subvariant is booming at this point in time. But it’s still a little early yet to predict how the summer will go. Right now, it is believed that many people are coming down with minor infections that they are not even reporting, so “herd” immunity may actually have a positive impact on our population’s response to this virus.
The important thing is always to be safe and know what your comfort level is while acknowledging that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, so stay vigilant, protected and understand government guidelines regarding what’s required.
For more COVID tips, visit our blog at https://www.vnastl.com/blog