coronavirus

What the BA.2 COVID-19 Variant Might Mean for the DMV

Residents share how they're feeling while local officials outline preparation and safety measures

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The omicron subvariant BA.2 has arrived in the DMV, and it has brought with it the same concern and anxiety as previous variants of the coronavirus.

Reona Burl, a Montgomery County resident, shared her uneasiness over the emerging variant.

"I'm very, very nervous," she said.

Another Montgomery County resident, Lamar Cameron, also shared concerns.

"I feel like we almost just got over something and we are right back to it again," Cameron said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BA.2 accounts for approximately 30% of the region's COVID-19 cases. 

The so-called “stealth variant” is estimated to be one-and-a-half times more transmissible than omicron. 

Health experts say the rise in cases is driven by the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates and waning immunity from vaccines. 

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich told residents BA.2 must be taken seriously to avoid a repeat of the delta surge last summer.

"If we ignore the new subvariant and think the pandemic is over, not get regularly tested, or refuse to get vaccinated or boosted, then we should expect and be prepared for another surge and the possibility of straining out healthcare system yet again," Elrich said. 

There is also a growing concern for people who are uninsured. 

A federal program that reimburses medical providers the cost of testing, treating and vaccinating the uninsured is set to end in early April. 

Elrich called it a national embarrassment and unconscionable.

"The uninsured are the working poor, and they're disproportionately people of color in our communities," he said.

BA.2’s growing prominence also comes as employees at numerous federal agencies return to work in the District.  

On Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District's public health system is prepared.

"We got hit pretty hard with omicron, but our public health system withstood it. D.C. residents and businesses did what they needed to do keep us all safe," she said.

What’s to come is uncertain, but for some residents, the discovery of another variant is now normal.

"I just think this is the new way that we are going to be going forward," said Fiona Orlandella, a Montgomery County resident.  

Burl echoed Orlandella's thoughts.

"All we can do is try to configure a smarter way of living with these variants," Burl said.

Despite BA.2’s high transmission rate, early indications are that it's not believed to cause more severe illness or carry an increased risk of hospitalization.

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