PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the BA.5 variant causes a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, researchers at the University of Washington are sounding the alarm.

UW’s Medicine Infectious Diseases physician Dr. John Lynch says the variant is showing strength in dodging previous immune protection, which is driving a summer surge in new COVID-19 cases.

“We’re probably at a number (of total cases) less than what we saw in January, but something very sizable and probably one of the largest surges we’ve had through the whole pandemic,” said Lynch, the medical director of infection control at Harborview Medical Center.

As of Friday, the university said 86 patients were receiving treatment at UW Medicine hospitals for COVID-19 infections. The announcement added that the variant accounted for 66.9% of the lab’s sequenced positive COVID-19 tests, according to the school’s recent virology data available from July 3.

This momentum of the latest variant, said Lynch, should encourage those eligible to stay on top of current booster vaccinations.

“I am very pro-booster. I think that if you’re eligible for boosters in any way, shape, or form – you should definitely get them,” he said. “For those who are eligible for that second booster, absolutely get it on board. I do not think that waiting for an omicron-specific booster or vaccine in the fall is necessary. We really know we’re in a surge right now with a highly transmissible variant.”

The university noted that people under age 50 who are not immunocompromised can still get a second COVID-19 booster shot at this time. Click here to stay on top of the latest developments.