To ensure we are equipping our readers with all the information they need, we will continue to report on all travel, safety, and COVID-related news that could impact a Disney Parks visit.
We’ve seen several variants of COVID-19 since the pandemic first began in 2020, with the most recent ones being subvariants of the Omicron variant. With each new variant come concerns about the potential for infection and how the updates could affect travel plans.
BA.2 has been the focus for healthcare experts recently, and as a highly contagious variant of Omicron, we saw it become increasingly present in wastewater near Disney World. But now a new variant has taken the spotlight. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms and how the BA.2.12.1 could impact your upcoming Disney vacation.
What Is the New COVID-19 Variant?
Although the BA.2 omicron subvariant is still the most prevalent in the United States, NBC Boston has reported that the BA.2.12.1 has been “gaining momentum” recently. This new omicron subvariant is thought to be “27% more contagious than BA.2,” and it is currently “responsible for approximately 36.5% of cases nationwide.” This is up from 26% last week and 16% during the second week in April, according to US News.
As of May of 2022, those numbers have changed. It now looks like BA.2.12.1 makes up around 42.6% of total cases.
According to News 18, this variant could become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the US within the next couple of weeks. They reported that “new cases in New York have increased, although they remain far below the horrific numbers seen earlier in the pandemic.”
The BA.2.12.1 is more contagious than BA.2, but does that mean it’s more severe? Apparently not: Experts are currently saying that this variant does not cause more severe disease than BA.2. The CDC’s director has confirmed that health officials are focusing on BA.2.12.1 as well as BA.2 right now.
The director said, “We are not anticipating more severe disease from some of these subvariants, but we are actively studying it” (News 18). According to recent CDC statistics, deaths from COVID-19 and its subvariants have decreased by 17% in the last 2 weeks.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms for the BA.2.12.1 look very similar to previous COVID-19 variants. Here are some to look out for:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Some people may experience these symptoms more severely than others. And — as was the case with other COVID-19 variants — many people may be infected with BA.2.12.1 without experiencing any symptoms at all. NBC stated that those who have been vaccinated and boosted will likely experience cold-like symptoms regardless of the variant. They also reported that “experts generally agree that the public shouldn’t worry too much about the emergence of each omicron subvariant.”
David Montefiori (professor at the Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University Medical Center) stated, “At some point, you just can’t get nervous every time there’s a new variant, because there’s always going to be a new variant. We’ve been through multiple waves of variants that really mattered a lot, but we might be coming out of that because there’s so much immunity built up in the population” (NBC).
General policies such as being vaccinated and boosted, getting tested if you experience symptoms, wearing a face mask when needed, and practicing social distancing where necessary can apply to all variants.
How Could It Affect My Trip to Disney World?
Although the highest rate of infection of BA.2.12.1 is currently being seen in the northeast United States, this variant is becoming increasingly present in Florida as well. The Palm Beach Post reported that “state health officials logged the biggest increase in new cases since late February, but hospitalizations remain lower than before the omicron variant engulfed Florida.”
The State Health Department also reported “an average of 29,715 new infections each week since April 22nd,” which is “the biggest jump since Feb. 25th.” An epidemiologist in Florida has said, “In terms of severity, it doesn’t seem like we’re experiencing what we did with delta or omicron,” although “it’s too early to make any predictions” (Palm Beach Post).
The CDC has recommended that people wear masks on public transit in the Miami-Date, Sarasota, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties in Florida, where the new subvariant poses a “medium” risk to health care systems.
One expert stated that, although the Florida health care system hasn’t seen an increase in COVID admissions or hospitalizations recently, the recent changes to eliminate mask mandates in theme parks and on public transit could lead to more hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
UPDATE: As of May 2022, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida have been increasing.
If cases of the new BA.2.12.1 variant continue to rise and pose a threat to public health, Disney World could revise its face mask mandates in the parks. It’s unlikely that the parks will close again (the way they did in 2020), but we might see a return of face masks to transportation and/or other indoor areas. As of writing, Disney has not made any announcements about changes to mask mandates or other health & safety policies.
Remember that currently, face masks are not required anywhere in Disney World except in certain parts of First Aid locations. The most recent change to that policy was this past April when requirements for face masks on transportation (like the Monorail and Disney buses) were removed.
We’ll keep an eye out for any updates from Disney World and let you know about the changes. Stay tuned with DFB for all the latest information that could impact your upcoming Disney trip.