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Learn to Adapt as COVID-19 Cases & Hospitalizations Persist

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Cases of COVID-19 have steadily risen throughout the summer,  recently peaking, largely due to the variant of omicron called BA.5. This variant contains mutations that make it more transmissible and better able to overcome immunity and cause infection.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention  estimates that BA.5 is the dominant variant in the U.S., at about 80% of cases while the Oregon Health Authority reports about 64% of cases statewide are BA.5.

“BA.5 is not causing more severe disease, but it is better at evading immunity than previous variants. Since there have been so many infections, we have seen hospitalizations and deaths increase overall,” said Adam Brady, MD, from Samaritan Infectious Disease who heads the Coronavirus Task Force at Samaritan.

Those over the age of 50, are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions continue to be at the highest risk for severe COVID-19. 

Vaccines & Boosters Still Effective

According to Dr. Brady, the vaccines against COVID-19 continue to do a good job of preventing serious disease and death. However, ongoing boosters will likely be part of staying up to date with your vaccinations, similar to an annual flu shot.

The current CDC booster guidelines recommend everyone receive one booster shot after they complete their primary series.

Adults 50 and older and some people who are immunocompromised may be eligible for a second booster shot four months after their first booster.

“The new variants of omicron appear to be better at causing infection even in those who are vaccinated or have had COVID-19 previously, but the information we’re collecting supports the continued effectiveness of vaccines at keeping people who get COVID-19 alive and out of the hospital,” said Dr. Brady.

The CDC reports that in the month of June, COVID-19-related hospitalizations were 4.6 times higher in adults 18 and older who were unvaccinated.

Treatments Options If You Have COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19 and are at risk for severe disease, talk to your primary care provider about treatments that can help so you have milder symptoms. There are two types of treatments:

  • An antiviral medication that works by preventing the virus that causes COVID-19 from reproducing inside your body, lowering the amount of virus in your body and boosting your immune system. These include Paxlovid and molnupiravir, which are pills that may be taken at home within five days of your first symptoms. Remdesivir is another antiviral that must be given by IV over three days within seven days of your first symptoms.
  • A monoclonal antibody that works by blocking the virus from entering the cells in your body and limiting the amount of virus in your body. Bebtelovimab is a monoclonal antibody that is administered as a single IV injection and must be started within five days of your first symptoms.

If you are not at risk for severe disease, over-the-counter treatment options like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help you feel better. Rest and stay hydrated.

Get immediate medical care if your symptoms worsen and you experience any of the following:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest.
  • New confusion.
  • Inability to wake or stay awake.
  • Pale, gray or blue-colored skin, lips or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

Quarantine & Isolation Guidelines

If you are exposed to COVID-19, follow the current CDC quarantine and isolation guidelines:

If you were exposed and are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations:

  • Quarantine at home for at least five days.
  • Get tested five days after the exposure.
  • Take precautions, until day 10, like wearing a mask and avoiding travel.

If you were exposed and are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations:

  • No need to quarantine unless you develop symptoms.
  • Take precautions until day 10 like wearing a mask.
  • If you were exposed and had confirmed COVID-19 within the past 90 days:
  • No need to quarantine unless you develop symptoms.
  • Take precautions until day 10 like wearing a mask.

If you develop symptoms or test positive after an exposure, isolate immediately, regardless of vaccination status.

  • Stay home for at least five days
  • Wear a well-fitting mask if you must be around others in your home.
  • Do not travel.
  • If you had symptoms, you can end isolation after five full days once you have been fever-free for 24 hours and your other symptoms are improving.
  • If you did not have symptoms, you can end isolation five full days after a positive test.
  • Continue to take precautions until day 10 like wearing a mask and avoiding travel.

Continue Taking Precautions

Preventing infection in the first place is still important, especially if you are at high risk for severe infection. Wearing a high-quality mask when in crowded spaces can help reduce your risk of infection and following recommendations for vaccination and boosting will go a long way to keeping you safe.

“We’re learning more about COVID-19 all the time, but these tactics remain the best way to keep yourself and your family free from infection during times of widespread transmission,” said Dr. Brady.     

Remember that masks are still required at medical facilities.