A new Covid-19 variant was labeled as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), meaning it could be more transmissible, more destructive, and able to evade the protection granted by vaccines currently on the market, according to Vox. Over Thanksgiving weekend, the omicron variant quickly became the latest challenge in the mission to control the Covid-19 pandemic.
What we Know:
- The omicron variant was first identified and reported by the help of scientists in South Africa.
- So far, omicron cases have been found in 24 countries including Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the Unites States.
- Evidence suggests omicron is highly contagious, possibly more than the delta variant. Omicron has 32 mutations in the spike protein while the delta variant only has eight.
- There is no evidence at this time, however, there is speculation that omicron could possibly bypass current covid-19 vaccines on the market and acquired immunity from previous infection.
Workplace precautions for employers:
By now, the business community is accustomed to the rapidly changing Covid-19 climate. To keep staff, clients, and the community safe, there are important precautions employers should consider.
From experience, we know three precautions work at minimizing the spread of the Covid-19 virus – vaccines, masks, and social distancing.
Vaccine mandate or incentives: Vaccination remains the most effective form of protection from serious Covid-19 infection and death. If it does not make sense for your organization to mandate vaccination, consider ways to encourage vaccination. Employers have a responsibility to the health of their communities to share credible resources with employees around the benefits of vaccination. Download a comprehensive guide to navigating Covid-19 vaccine discussions in the workplace. In addition, employers should be reminding staff about the importance of getting their booster shot.
Mask policies: If working remotely is not an option, employers should encourage or enforce mask policies where it makes sense in the workplace. These areas include where staff move throughout hallways, cubicles, and common spaces.
Remote work: If your organization has transitioned back to the in-person workplace, consider allowing staff the option to work from home when it makes sense if it helps them feel more comfortable to reduce the spread of the new omicron variant in your community.
The omicron variant may be changing the Covid-19 climate around the world, but employers can continue to encourage and enforce precautions that are proven to work – vaccination, masks, and social distancing.