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Omicron subvariant cases rise in Oregon as COVID prevention requirements fall

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Omicron sub-variant BA.2 is now the dominant strain in Oregon and most parts of the U.S.

As people move away from pandemic restrictions this spring, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Oregon. This leaves many with questions about where we are in the pandemic and just how to behave.

BA.2 is a sub-variant of Omicron. Cases in Oregon have increased by 63% in the last two weeks. And that’s just based on what is reported.

Katie Sharff, Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest said, “Most individuals who are contracting COVID are now using the rapid tests at home. And those cases are not required to be reported to Public Health.”

Dr. Sharff said public health experts haven’t seen a coupled rise in hospitalizations yet. This may be due to effective vaccines. 83% of Oregonians have received at least one dose, 44% are boosted. And, it might have to do with a level of natural immunity gained-- since about half of Americans were infected with Omicron in the previous surge.

Tiffany Eckert
COVID-19 vaccination rates in Oregon are 83% having at least one dose and 44% being fully boosted.

Sharff warned the pandemic isn’t over and COVID prevention tactics remain the same. Get vaccinated. Stay home if you’re sick. And, if you are high-risk, wear a mask that really works.

Sharff said KN95 and N95 masks work well while cloth masks provide minimal protection against illness.

As we move forward, Sharff said for some “living their best life” may not be avoiding COVID to the extreme. Some people will decide to engage in activities that may increase their chance of contracting COVID, like going to bars, restaurants and concerts. But maybe they’ve taken steps like vaccination and boosters, so they consider their risk low.

Conversely, there are those whose overall health requires avoiding COVID at all cost. People with immunocompromising health conditions or living with someone at high risk have a good reason to continue masking and avoid engaging in high-risk activities.

Sharff said that’s ok. We all have unique situations and conditions that shape how we live our lives.

Tiffany Eckert
If you choose to continue wearing a mask to protect against illness, health officials say wear one that works: KN95 or N95.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.