What’s happening with the pandemic?

We’ve heard from readers that you’d like more information about what’s happening with COVID-19. The good news is there’s not much to report, but we understand why people are feeling anxious about something that has consumed all of our lives for the past few years.

The virus

The virus that causes COVID-19 continues to mutate. In April, Omicron XBB.1.5 became the predominant subvariant in the United States, accounting for about 79% of COVID-19 cases at that time. Now, XBB.1.5 makes up only about 12% of cases nationally. In its place, Omicron subvariant XBB.1.16 has slowly emerged to become the predominant strain (both nationally and in Oregon), accounting for 14.8% of all COVID-19 cases nationally.

Omicron is still the most prevalent COVID-19 variant, and it has spawned hundreds of subvariants globally. To monitor the activity of COVID-19 strains, follow the CDC’s variant tracker for national and regional data, and OHA’s variant dashboard for state data.

The CDC’s interactive COVID-19 variant tracker shows declining prevalence of XBB.1.5 in the U.S. since April. Click on the image to explore in more detail.

At the national level, there has been a slight uptick in measures of COVID-19-spread and related hospitalizations in recent weeks. You can see that data at the state and regional level here. In Oregon, while percent test positivity increased in early July, other indicators of COVID-19 spread are stable – including levels of COVID-19 in wastewater.

“This is a reminder that COVID-19 is still with us. Some of us may be sick with COVID-19 right now, recovering, or know people who are sick,” said Dean Sidelinger, OHA state health officer and state epidemiologist. “We should all take some steps to help protect us and our loved ones. Check to see that you are up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations. Have some well-fitting quality masks at home that you can wear in crowded indoor settings – this is especially true if you are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 or live with someone who is.”

As for what the future holds, we talked to Peter Graven, director of Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) Office of Advanced Analytics, who began forecasting pandemic activity and hospital capacity early on, and regularly. Graven hasn’t issued a forecast since April. That’s because “COVID-19 is currently not creating situations that impact our delivery of care,” Graven said. “Without strong signals from new variants, the relatively steady levels of infections have not raised any concerns.”

COVID-19 has not shown a consistent seasonal pattern like some viruses have, making it difficult to predict what will happen during the fall and winter.

“Surges have largely been driven by the timing of new variants,” Graven said. “COVID-19 may settle into a seasonal pattern, but it is not evident yet. So for now, we look for increases and new variants anywhere in the world.”


At the urging of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax are each in the process of making new, updated monovalent COVID-19 vaccines. After the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a chance to review laboratory data proving effectiveness and safety, we expect the new vaccines to be available to the public mid- to late-September 2023. We do not yet know the breakdown of who will be recommended to receive it.

Even though the new COVID-19 vaccines will move into the commercial market (meaning the government will no longer purchase them to distribute to the public for free), most people will not have to pay for them.

People with private insurance, Medicare and Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) coverage will continue to have access to free COVID-19 vaccines, though some private plans may charge co-pays.

For the uninsured or underinsured, starting this fall the federal Bridge Access Program will provide free COVID-19 vaccines through December 2024 via local public health departments, federally qualified health centers, and Walgreens or CVS pharmacies. Uninsured children 18 and younger will continue to receive COVID-19 vaccines at no cost through the Vaccines for Children program.


The federal government stopped taking orders for free, at-home COVID-19 test kits June 1 “to preserve remaining supply,” which will go to “uninsured individuals and underserved communities through existing outreach programs.”

People without insurance can find no-cost COVID-19 testing sites here.

Other no- and low-cost testing sites can be found here.

If you have an at-home COVID-19 test, check the expiration date on the box. The FDA has extended many COVID-19 test expiration dates, and you can find that updated list here.

It’s also important to avoid fake or counterfeit COVID-19 tests that are out there.

“Oregonians with certain health conditions should make a plan for how they will get tested and treated for COVID-19 if they get sick,” said Sidelinger. “This includes people over 50 and those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, as well as people who are obese or who smoke.”


There is ample supply of COVID-19 treatment medication in Oregon, such as the oral antiviral pill Paxlovid. The medication is available to eligible people 12 and older and can be prescribed by a physician or state-licensed pharmacist. You do not need to test positive for COVID-19 to be eligible for a prescription.

People with or without insurance can use Color Health’s free telehealth services, which can provide Paxlovid quickly, for free, to people as young as 12. Call Color Health’s customer service line at (844) 352-6567 or visit this webpage to start the process. OHA’s contract with Color Health ends Aug. 31, and we don’t yet know if it will be extended.

You can also use this locator tool to find Paxlovid or other COVID-19 therapeutics. Search results show where the medication is stocked, but only health care professionals can contact the locations to confirm.

Like COVID-19 vaccines, treatments will also enter the commercial market at some point. We expect the government supply of free Paxlovid (which accounts for 95% of all COVID-19 antiviral prescriptions) to last into 2024. It’s possible that the other COVID-19 oral antiviral pill Lagevrio (malnupiravir) may move to the commercial market by the end of 2023. Once these treatment options move to the commercial market, there may be a cost associated with prescriptions depending on one’s insurance.

To learn more, visit the COVID-19 Treatments Page.


Oregon no longer requires workers and volunteers in public and private education settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccination requirement was lifted June 17 because of current levels of immunity in Oregon due to vaccination and recovery from recent infection. Also, the requirement had focused only on the primary series and did not include recommended boosters.