Since the very first cases of COVID-19 arrived in Connecticut in March of 2020, the pandemic has felt like a game of stop and go.

And just when life seems to have returned back to normal after this past winter’s Omicron surge, here we are hearing and reading about the Omicron BA.2 subvariant. What should we know about BA.2, and what can we expect life to be like in the coming weeks and months? John R. Schreiber, infectious diseases expert at Connecticut Children’s, weighs in on what we know so far.

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1. Don’t worry too much just yet, but be vigilant.

Right now, parts of Europe and the U.K. are the most affected by the predominant BA.2 variant, causing the rise in COVID-19 cases.  

There are many cases already in the U.S., but so far we have not had much of an uptick in total numbers of COVID cases. At Connecticut Children’s, we’re keeping a very close watch on the patterns both nationally and across the state.

2. Vaccines and boosters are extremely effective against severe illness or hospitalization from COVID-19.

Yes, breakthrough cases are possible, even likely. But let’s remind our kids—and each other—that the COVID-19 vaccine is very effective in preventing the worst case scenario, like severe illness, hospitalization or even death. These vaccines, especially with the booster, are very effective against severe disease caused by the new BA.2 variant. Think about the flu shot for a minute—it’s the same idea.

The majority of children handle COVID-19 like champions and are much less likely to become severely ill than adults. However, some kids can get very ill from it and even die—there are 400 children in the US so far who have died from COVID during this pandemic. This is why it’s important for everyone to vaccinate and boost. If your child is eligible, get them vaccinated and boosted, too. Protection is prevention.

3. We aren’t sure if BA.2 will cause another rapid surge.

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that this pandemic is ever-changing. We are hoping not to see another significant surge like Omicron (see below), but if we do, we are more prepared as a society to handle what that could mean.

4. Scientists think the original Omicron variant provides immunity against BA.2.

Many of us have had COVID-19 ourselves, and in New England most of us are vaccinated. This means that herd immunity is building. We also know that people who have had COVID and then later get vaccinated have very good protection from severe disease. While we still have more to learn about what this means for the BA.2 sub-variant specifically, experts believe that a resurgence, if it occurs, will be less intense than before because of all this immunity.

Young girl with her grandma and mom

5. Continue to protect the high risk and vulnerable.

Our children younger than 4 are not vaccinated and many schools and daycares have lifted the mask mandate. We are optimistic that vaccines for kids under the age of 5 will be available this spring.

Our loved ones 65 and older are also at risk of more serious illness from COVID-19, and so are those with certain medical conditions, even if vaccinated and boosted. High risk individuals need to continue to be cautious and wear masks indoors and avoid large crowds.

Our advice is to speak with those in your close circles and get on the same page with your safety and risk levels. This may mean keeping gatherings to a minimum, or it may not. It may mean continuing to wear masks in public places, or it may not.

The moral of the story? COVID-19 is not going away. Viruses mutate all the time, and new variants emerge all the time. But we—as a society—will continue to work together to prepare and protect one another. Immunization—which we all know prevents serious illness from COVID-19—will be a critical piece of our learning to live with this virus.