In Short

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley suffers Covid relapse

By: - June 2, 2022 4:43 pm

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, shown here at a Portland conference last December, has become infected with Covid. (Ron Cooper/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon is again sick with Covid.

“After recovering and feeling better, some Covid symptoms have returned, and I again tested positive,” Merkley said in a statement Thursday. “This is occurring in a modest percent of folks who used Paxlovid and is referred to as ‘COVID-19 rebound.’”

Paxlovid is an antiviral medication that’s proven effective for treating Covid. It is generally taken for five days as soon as symptoms emerge. The Oregon Democrat, who is 65, announced he had the disease on May 23. He said at the time that he had mild symptoms. 

He is vaccinated and boosted, his office said.

Oregon’s other U.S. senator, Ron Wyden, has recovered from Covid. So have Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio. No other member of Oregon’s congressional delegation reported becoming infected.

Merkley said he is in quarantine.

“I am following CDC guidelines to isolate and will return to in-person work as soon as I am able,” the statement said. “This is yet another reminder that the virus is evolving and changing, and we all must be diligent to stay one-step ahead. We know the best ways to mitigate the spread: getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks and isolating and testing when you know you have been exposed.”

The virus is continuing to sicken about 1,500 people a day in Oregon, according to the state’s latest seven-day average. An omicron variant, BA.2, is dominant, tests show. The strain is considered to be even more infectious than omicron. Scientists say people can become reinfected, even if they’ve already gotten sick. 

Vaccines and boosters help prevent severe illness, health officials say.

Oregon’s vaccine rate has not budged in recent weeks. State data show that nearly 84% of adults in Oregon are vaccinated, and nearly 46% have received at least one booster dose. Vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna for children from 6 months old to 5, the last age group that has not been vaccinated, could arrive in the state within three weeks, according to the Biden administration.

Though most of the Covid restrictions have been lifted in Oregon, health officials recommend masking in public places indoors in counties with high-risk levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers about half of the counties in Oregon – including Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Coos, Curry, Deschutes, Hood River, Columbia, Baker, Benton, Polk, Lane, Union, Wallowa and Malheur, to have a medium risk level. The CDC recommends that people at risk for severe disease mask indoors in medium-risk counties. No county is rated at high risk.

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.