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Omicron variant arrives in Lane County

Rachael McDonald

The omicron variant has arrived in Lane County. A person tested positive late last week for COVID-19 and a University of Oregon lab sequenced the sample and confirmed it as omicron.

Lane County Senior Public Health officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke told KLCC the person with the omicron variant is in Eugene / Springfield and had recently travelled out of state. He said there’s time before cases explode to get a COVID booster shot—which studies show increases immunity to the variant.

“We have, you know, a couple weeks to get people protected, Luedtke said. “So, go get your booster. Number two, if you haven’t had any vaccine at all. Start your primary series.”

Luedtke said the severity of illness from omicron is still unknown. But modeling shows the variant might be two to two-and-a-half times more transmissible than Delta.

He said at the peak of the Delta surge in Lane County, 142 people were hospitalized with severe disease.

“We could go from 142 hospitalized cases to 355. That is way, we couldn’t handle that,” he said. “We don’t have 355 ventilators. We don’t have the capacity to take care of 355 severe omicron diseases that require hospitalization. So we want to prevent that.”

Luedtke urged people to get their booster shot and if they haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so. And he recommends small holiday gatherings, masking indoors and staying home if you’re sick.

He said we’re fortunate to have plentiful testing and vaccine opportunities in Lane County.
The Lane County case is the fourth confirmed case of the omicron variant in Oregon. The first three were identified last week.

Copyright 2021 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.