Relaxed precautions, social gatherings and the B.1.1.7. variant increase the spread

You may be wondering why cases have been on the rise recently, especially as we see an increase in vaccination across the state. There are two answers to this question – variants that are more transmissible and increased social gatherings without face coverings.  

The CDC and OHA are closely monitoring variants of concern (VOC). VOCs are variants that have mutations in the virus genome that alter the characteristics and cause the virus to act differently. For example, a variant of concern may cause more severe disease, spread more easily between humans, require different treatments and change the effectiveness of current vaccines.   

One variant is B.1.1.7, which has now become the dominant variant in Oregon statewide. It is 50% more transmissible and may cause more severe disease. At this point, it appears that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against variant B.1.1.7. 

While we are seeing this variant become more prominent in Oregon, people also seem to be relaxing their precautions. Much of the increase in cases we’re seeing is in younger people and is due to social gatherings where people are not wearing face coverings. The fact that variant B.1.1.7. has become Oregon’s dominant strain is intensifying the spread at these events.  

The good news is that we know how to turn this around. The same precautions that we have been taking throughout this pandemic are what will slow this spread – wear a face covering and keep gatherings small and outdoors. And get vaccinated if you’re eligible. The best way to end the pandemic is by vaccinating enough of the population to keep the virus from being able to spread easily.  

People in Oregon know how take care of each other in tough times. We got this. 

This article first appeared in the April 28, 2021 issue of Oregon Coronavirus Update.