OHSU update on omicron: ‘It’s infecting vaccinated people’

Coronavirus

The hospital said the variant is widespread in the community

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Health and Science University is expecting to see cases of COVID-19 go up dramatically in the next two weeks.

KOIN 6 News spoke with OHSU’s Data Scientist Peter Graven, Ph.D, who said the area is at the beginning of the omicron variant wave with cases most likely starting in Portland then moving out to other areas of the state.

At this point, he said, the variant is widespread in the community.

“It’s infecting vaccinated people, so I think that’s the big story, that’s it’s probably different for most of us who have been through the delta surge,” said Graven. “If you’re vaccinated, you had quite a bit of protection from infections. As vaccinated, you still have protection from hospitalization, but the infections are quite easy to get.”

“As vaccinated, you still have protection from hospitalization, but the infections are quite easy to get.”

— OHSU Data Scientist Peter Graven, Ph.D

However, the delta variant of the coronavirus has been falling in a predictable path and has been receding in Oregon.

For those waiting to see if omicron will take delta’s place, Graven said, “the sign is going to come very quickly that it’s everywhere.”

He added that thinking twice about protections and risk around a high-risk family member or friend would be wise for the time being. If you’re young, vaccinated, and healthy, you may get infected, but you’ll be less likely to become hospitalized or suffer other severe disease, according to OHSU.

“If you’re visiting a high-risk friend or family member, you might just assume that you’re positive (with COVID-19),” Graven suggested. “For them, it’s not forever. This is going to be a month or two, and it’s going to go pretty quick.”

The hospital advises to keep the same principles we’ve had throughout the pandemic: wear your mask and get vaccinated.

However, “I think we all thought that if we’re vaccinated, then we’re pretty safer, I wouldn’t say you’re so safe anymore,” said Graven. “You still have protection from hospitalization, but the infections are quite easy to get.” 

He added, “That doesn’t mean you should avoid all things, but I’m saying there’s a decent risk you could get infected.”

For those who are infected and then hospitalized, Graven said the outcomes will be better than those who are unvaccinated.

“The good news, if you’re vaccinated, is we think that the outcomes will be better. That means even if you do get hospitalized, there’ll be a shorter length to stay, less likely to need a ventilator, or go to the ICU, all those things we think are associated with being vaccinated, but it’s just that the risk of getting infected is quite a bit higher,” Graven said.

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