PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The latest COVID-19 variant seems to be more transmissible but not more severe, said a research doctor with OHSU.

Dr. Peter Graven told KOIN 6 News this new variant, XBB.1.5, will likely keep our COVID cases steady when they might otherwise decline quicker after a winter surge. Graven said infection rates for COVID in the Northeast are exceeding 70%.

“When you get to that level you start to see the impacts of it and we are seeing some higher hospitalization rates there,” he said.

The higher hospitalization rate comes from how many people are getting infected but Graven said XBB.1.5 isn’t more severe or particularly deadly.

The delta variant was the first time the virus mutated into something more severe and that has not happened again.

But the COVID-19 virus is sticking around and will continue to find ways to mutate, Graven said.