Just when it feels like we are starting to get back to normal we are being warned: the next wave of Covid-19 is coming, and in some parts of the United States, it is already here.
This time it is BA.2, a subvariant of the highly infectious Omicron variant. Nobody knows for sure how much havoc it will cause, but BA.2 has already led to a surge of cases in Europe and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the United States and around the world.
American health officials have said they are hopeful that BA.2 won’t cause another major surge, in part because so many people were infected by the original Omicron wave this winter and most likely have at least some natural or vaccine immunity to protect them against severe illness and hospitalization.
But other variables could turn the BA.2 wave into a more damaging surge. One concern is that less than 70 percent of Americans over 65 have had a first booster shot, leaving a large group vulnerable.
In addition, many people got their booster shots in the fall and their immune protection may be waning. Unvaccinated people who are counting on natural immunity from a previous infection by a different variant should know that BA.2 can easily sidestep those fading immune defenses.
Fortunately, while the virus is unpredictable, there are clear ways to protect yourself. Many of them are the same things we have had to do since the pandemic began.
Pay attention to Covid indicators in your community
Have high-quality masks on hand
While most Americans seem to have been using surgical masks it has been determined that they are not as safe as originally thought. Ideally, you should look for a reliable supply of N95, KN95 or KF94 masks. And be careful to avoid counterfeits.
Order home Covid tests sooner rather than later
Get a booster (when you are eligible)
Get a pulse oximeter
A pulse oximeter is a small device that clips on your finger and measures your blood oxygen levels. When levels drop to 92 or lower, patients should see a doctor. Low oxygen can be a sign of Covid pneumonia and may raise your risk for serious complications from Covid-19. The devices can be less reliable for people with darker skin, so pay attention to downward trends as well as the number.
Make a plan for antiviral drug treatment
Have backup plans for social events and travel
If you’re planning to travel, do a little advance research into clinics and pharmacies at your destination so you know whether you can get antiviral drugs if you catch Covid-19 on your trip. Make sure you have extra funds or plenty of room on your credit card in case you need to extend your trip to recover from Covid.