"I think we're going to see an uptick of people getting COVID," said Dr. Jasmine Plummer, a genomics researcher with Cedars-Sinai.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data suggests that BA.2 cases are rising steadily, making up 23% of all cases in the U.S. as of early March. Health officials say besides being 50% to 60% more transmissible, the BA.2 subvariant appears perform the same way as its predecessor. This means that while BA.2 can spread faster than BA.1, it might not make people sicker.
READ ALSO | New studies shed light on how to treat BA.2 COVID variant, how long it survives on surfaces
"It doesn't appear to be any more severe, nor does it appear to evade immune responses of vaccines or prior infection," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert. "However, it is spreading more efficiently."
Some reports say the most commonly experienced BA.2 symptoms are dizziness and fatigue, but Plummer says symptoms may vary based on an individual's health status.
"If you're vaccinated, it seems to be more milder symptoms, and I'm very hopeful that we're not going to have an additional strain on the health care system," she said.
Meanwhile, across Los Angeles, mask rules continue to loosen.
After reaching an agreement with its labor unions to lift the face-covering requirement, L.A. Unified School District students and staff will be able to remove their masks indoors. The district announced it will now only strongly recommend masks indoors. The new policy will begin no later than Wednesday, March 23.
READ MORE | LAUSD to end indoor mask requirement for students, employees
"We don't judge the decisions of people. We know students and family members may be immunocompromised so we really just want folks to know it's OK to mask," said LAUSD board vice president Nick Melvoin. "It's OK to be unmasked, but I do know that a lot of our teachers are happy to see their students' smiles come Wednesday."
Though there may be an uptick of BA.2 infections in the coming months, protective immunity from vaccination or previous infection provides defense against severe disease. This may make it less likely that BA.2 will cause a significant increase in hospitalization and deaths.
The U.S., however, lags behind other countries when it comes to vaccination, and falls even further behind on boosters. To prevent spread, Plummer urges anyone who is feeling sick to take all necessary precautions.
"Wear a mask if you're feeling under the weather, because maybe because of the higher transmission rate, it could be COVID," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.