Doctor: 3 years later, risk of serious COVID-19 infection much lower

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 10:41 AM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - It was just about three years ago since we were told to stay inside, masks were required and restaurants were takeout only. The COVID-19 pandemic officially arrived in Oregon in Feb. 2020.

But now COVID-19 cases have plummeted, leaving even some doctors to lower their level of concern.

You weren’t likely to find people getting together and going out in public three years ago. But now they are filling public places again. That includes Lucas Neff of Beaverton.

“I feel comfortable kind of going about my daily life without too many concerns,” Neff said.

Dr. Katie Sharff, the Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, echoes those feelings. She said the amount of prior infections and vaccines make the risk much lower.

“COVID is shifting from this acute disease that we were terrified of to more of a respiratory virus that we are learning to manage and live with,” Sharff said.

Sharff said in the time since COVID-19 first emerged, doctors have learned how to better treat it.

“We have learned quite a bit about COVID and have better therapeutics, better vaccines to prevent and treat the illness if you do get it,” she said.

Sharff said there are some people who have underlying conditions that remain very sick in the hospital. But you’re more likely to make a quick recovery if you don’t have certain risk factors.

“For a healthy, younger individual, less than 50, vaccinated, COVID is going to present as a flu-like illness,” she said.

Even though life has been normal lately for Neff, he says he’s going to continue to follow it closely.

“If there’s a new variant or something changes, I may change my perspective again,” he said. “I think that’s kind of a new reality of ‘Things are fine for now but they may not always be fine.’”

Sharff said so much has been learned about this virus in the last three years, but there is still much more to find out in the years to come.