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OHA health experts speak about Omicron subvariant

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 11:37 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Health experts are learning more about the Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 BA2.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger from the Oregon Health Authority said it is more transmissible than the original Omicron variant but it doesn’t appear to be causing more severe disease. And while many Oregonians are tired of hearing about new variants or wary of another surge, Sidelinger said this time we should all be able to breathe a little easier.

“Right now with COVID rates low and COVID rates continuing to go down, now is the time we can be a little less cautious,” he said. He said while this is a good sign, we should moving forward treat COVID like we do the weather.

“Much like we have to be prepared for the weather, we have to be prepared for wildfires, we need to be prepared for what the next subvariant of Omicron or the next variant of COVID might bring,” he said. “Keeping our masks handy, being prepared to change our activities if disease rates are increasing is something we should all kind of be prepared for.” He said the current vaccines seem to be holding up against BA2 and those who have recently had COVID and recovered will have some level of protection from that as well. And as for the potential for a fourth shot, he said more evaluation needs to be done at the federal level.

“We know that in other countries starting particularly with older individuals, those most at risk for complications that a fourth dose has been used, so I think seeing the real world benefits of that if there are any offering increased protection as we move through this pandemic is also another factor that we’ll consider,” he said. Sidelinger also said we are getting close to COVID becoming an endemic.

“We don’t yet know that kind of predictable pattern with COVID so I don’t know if we can call it endemic yet but we can certainly be happy with where we are now with disease rates lower, with effective vaccines to combat the disease and knowing that Oregonians have stepped up time and time again to take actions to protect themselves and their neighbors and communities and that we’ll do it again,” he said.