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OMICRON VARIANT IS INCREASING EMPLOYEE ABSENCE – HOW TO CURB ITS EFFECT ON YOUR BUSINESS?
In the past two years, we learned about the effects of the pandemic on all spheres of life. The economy was frequently in the spotlight. With the lockdowns and all kinds of other limitations, it was clear that business-as-usual cannot continue. Everything was so new to everyone. So, both the employers and the employees often found themselves following the rules without
fully understanding the reasons behind them.
Now we know there are measures companies can take to reduce economic damage. They can minimize the workers' absence by decreasing the infectivity of the virus. The first step towards this is understanding its environmental stability.
Omicron is more environmentally stable than previous variants of concern (VoC) of SARS-COV-2, such as the:
• Wuhan strain,
• Beta, and
In theory, omicron can have a devastating effect on businesses due to higher employee absence rates. Let’s take a look at the statistics.
IS OMICRON INCREASING WORKERS' ABSENCE?
So far, the scientific data shows us that omicron spreads significantly faster than previous variants. However, it seems to produce a lighter clinical picture. In simple words, it’s not as lethal.
In general, that is a positive thing. For companies, it means more employees will get sick in a shorter time.
Statistics support this claim. A survey of 75.000 respondents in the United States shows an increase of almost two hundred percent in the number of virus-related absences from work at the beginning of this year. From 1.2% in December 2021 to 3.5% in January 2022.
Experts claim that the total numbers are even higher. Many people skip work because they are taking care of someone else. Others have to quarantine. In the US alone, during the first ten days of 2022, the total number of absent workers reached twelve million!
WHY IS OMICRON MORE CONTAGIOUS?
Several scientific research-based factors influence the greater infectivity of
the omicron variant.
A recent Japanese study indicates that omicron survives longer on plastic
surfaces and human skin.
Here's how it compares to other variants of concern:
1. Plastic surfaces survival time:
• Wuhan strain – 56 hours
• Alpha – 191.3 hours
• Beta – 156.6 hours
• Gamma – 59.3 hours
• Delta – 114 hours
• Omicron – 193.5 hours
2. Human skin survival rate:
• Wuhan strain - 8.6 hours
• Alpha - 19.6 hours
• Beta - 19.1 hours
• Gamma – 11 hours
• Delta – 16.8 hours
• Omicron – 21.1 hours
The same study shows that the omicron variant is more resistant to ethanol-based disinfectants. It required a 40% ethanol antiseptic (EA) to become inactive after 15 seconds.
Lower concentrations were enough for other variants:
• Wuhan strain and Gamma - 32.5% in 15 seconds
• Alpha, Beta, and Delta – 35% in 15 seconds
The data shows the resilience of omicron. Although the study did not test the environmental stability of the variant on the face mask surface, it is safe to presume it is also longer.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO ABOUT IT?
While all the preventive measures still apply, some of them can help the spreading of omicron with improper use. Yes, the face masks. As great as they are, most people handle them wrong. Without frequent changing, washing, and proper storage, face mask become epicenters of infection. Employers should train workers and encourage the use of anti-viral and air-permeable mask cases. Proper handling and storing of masks can prevent the transfer of omicron to other surfaces and inhibit its spreading potential. It is, without a doubt, one of the best and most cost-effective methods to keep the employee absence at a minimum.
Rosmy and Victoria,
Dоctor at IM CLINIC and Co-Founder Just in Case
• Araf Y, Akter F, Tang YD, et al. Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2: Genomics, transmissibility, and responses to current
COVID-19 vaccines [published online ahead of print, 2022 Jan 12]. J Med Virol. 2022;10.1002/jmv.27588.
• Hirose, R., Itoh, Y., Ikegaya, H., Miyazaki, H., Watanabe, N., Yoshida, T., ... & Nakaya, T. (2022). Differences in
environmental stability among SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern: Omicron has higher stability. bioRxiv.
• Census Bureau United States. Week 41 Household Pulse Survey: December 29, 2021 – January 10, 2022. Retrieved