Mask mandates continue to fall by the wayside across industries and states in the U.S., simultaneous with an uptick in the number of COVID-19 infections—led by the BA.2 variant at this point, but also fueled by yet another new variant being called BA.2.12.1. The New York State Department of Health, for one, has blamed BA.2.12.1 for a recent spike upstate. Public health officials there estimate that the latest version of the virus is up to 27% more transmissible than BA.2, which is already known to be more transmissible than the first omicron variant. In other words, each subsequent variant is more transmissible than the last. The greater threat, of course, would be if BA.2.12.1 turns out also be more lethal than previously existing variants. It’s too early to get a sense of that, however. The City of Philadelphia has already reversed itself by reinstituting a mask mandate, and some East Coast school districts have had temporary periods of remote learning or returned to contact tracing to stave off spread. It all serves as a reminder to urgent care professionals that the pandemic is still very much with us, with the best strategies for reducing risk among staff and patients still being complete vaccination status, mask-wearing, and avoiding close contact in groups of people. In addition, bear in mind that standards from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration healthcare workers remain unchanged.
As More Restrictions and Mandates Relax, Another COVID-19 Variant Rears Its Head