It is a variant of the coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19. Viruses often mutate. This happens with the flu (influenza) as well. When a specific set of mutations is identified across multiple coronaviruses, they are collectively referred to as a variant. (source, source)
Some COVID-19 variants pose an increased health risk. Scientists believe they may have the following impact (source):
Three variants that have spread globally are now present in the U.S: B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1.
The N501Y mutation, which is believed to help the virus bind to cells easier, has been identified in all three variants. The E484K mutation, which is believed to enable greater resistance to antibody drug therapies, has also been identified to varying degrees in all three variants (source)
By providing masks and/or communicating the latest guidelines on mask-wearing, you keep your staff and customers safe. It's recommended that everyone at work wear a mask when indoors or outdoors. This is especially true when working around individuals and employees you don't live with. Multi-layered cloth masks are effective. Using a disposable mask under the multi-layered cloth mask is better. A nose wire, a brace, and knotting the ear loops of your mask help to ensure respiratory droplets don't enter or escape your mask. (source, source, source)
Maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet when in public helps to minimize transmission of COVID-19. Distance is particularly important in crowded public spaces like bars, fitness centers, theaters and restaurants. Increasingly, proper ventilation indoors has become a focus of lawmakers and health experts. Air circulation minimizes the airbone concentration of the virus which can in turn reduce transmission rates (source). In January, Washington state asked restaurants to install CO2 monitors to track air flow quality as a condition of resuming indoor dining (source). More recently, the city of Philadelphia instituted air ventilation requirements as a requisite indoor dining (source).
As we approach the 1-year mark of the pandemic, mental health is top of mind across industries and communities. Frontline workers in particular have had to adjust to new safety protocols and hazardous work environments. When mental health is addressed, employee safety in the workplace improves. Here are some recommendations to help relieve stress, some of which can be incorporated in the workplace (source, source):