More Contagious COVID-19 Variant Spreading Rapidly

It’s a new, more contagious type of COVID-19, and it’s already affecting local health care facilities. 

At Virginia Garcia Clinic in Hillsboro, Director of Patient Support and Safety Hazel Wheeler says staff have been seeing an increased number of patients with covid. He says most of the patients they serve are Hispanic, and the positivity rates are over 20%.  “We have larger family structures closer together, and folks are unable to call in sick so they don’t have the ability to call into work or self quarantine,” Wheeler said.

The new variant, XBB.1.5, already makes up about a third of covid cases across the country.  Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Katie Sharff, says if you haven’t gotten COVID yet, you are likely to.

She tells news partner KGW the best defense against serious illness, is still the updated covid boosters. “Staffing shortages and a lot of sick patients, it’s a really challenging time.”

She says some groups are more at risk, including those 65 and older, and “Immunocompromised, or pregnant women.”  They need to make sure they’ve gotten updated boosters.

Pharmacist Than Lee says his Northeast Portland pharmacy’s given out more than 25,000 vaccine doses since the summer, and things are trending up again. “We’ve been seeing a lot of young people coming in to get the vaccine,” Lee said.