February 23, 2024

Should Your Company Be Concerned about the BA.2 Variant?

Stephen Massey
Managing Director, Health Action Alliance

In the event of a new surge, employers should take steps to protect vulnerable workers.

Even as masks come off in many areas and overall COVID-19 case numbers drop, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring the rise of a new Omicron subvariant, BA.2.

The cause for concern:

  • BA.2 is responsible for a spike in cases in Europe and the U.K. Previously, spikes there have been followed by a similar rise in cases in the U.S.
  • The World Health Organization has said that BA.2 is even more easily spread than BA.1, the version of Omicron that caused the big winter surge.
  • BA.2 is on its way to becoming the dominant variant in the U.S. Currently, half of the COVID-19 cases in the Northeast, and 35% nationally, are due to BA.2.

On the positive side:

  • Keeping your COVID-19 vaccinations up to date with a booster shot still provides substantial protection against infection and very strong protection against severe illness. 
  • BA.2 doesn’t seem to cause more severe illness than Omicron.
  • Currently, the vast majority of the country is at a "low" COVID-19 Community Level, a new measurement tool created by CDC to assess local risk based on a range of factors such as hospital capacity and the number of new infections..

The takeaway for employers:

CDC tracks variants and new cases for the same reason that employers should monitor local information and keep flexible policies in place—to be ready to step up protections through masking and other measures as conditions require.

  • Make sure you are protecting vulnerable employees—those who are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions which put them at risk of serious illness. 
  • If cases increase, be prepared to keep BA.2 from entering your workplace by requiring regular testing and making sure your employees quarantine and isolate as necessary.
  • Ensure that workers have access to high-quality masks, and track the COVID-19 Community Levels, updated weekly, to decide whether you should require masks.
  • Support workers who may wish to take extra precautions like wearing a mask where it’s not required.

Our new COVID-19 Endemic Readiness Assessment will help your company stay prepared for an uptick in cases and navigate the “new normal” with confidence.