I sometimes feel like our seasons are off by a month. Only now that we are in February does it really feel like winter. That bone-penetrating cold we’ve been experiencing makes me grateful for a warm home, and the gorgeous light in the mornings is a nice bonus too. Here comes the sun!

COVID has been settling down, with both hospitalizations and cases at lower levels than the fall, and below most expectations. Yay!

According to the State’s data dashboard, everything is down, including deaths and vaccinations. Hospital systems have been experiencing some challenges with admissions, staffing shortages, and visits to the ER from people who are getting run over by one or another respiratory bug, but overall, COVID doesn’t seem to be taking the toll that was predicted early in the winter season. Hopefully we are going to keep trending downward in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. That being said…

Release the Kraken!

When viruses mutate, the changes can make your immunity (natural or vaccine induced) fade; the mutations make the virus like a whole new disease you have no protection against.

For some time now, those in charge have switched from naming COVID variants with greek letters (O is for Omicron,) to some variation of software versions. Concerns have been circulating about the “Ex-be-be-point-one-point-

It seems that XBB.1.5 ( the fifth grandchild of XBB — a subvariant of our old friend Omicron), is highly transmissible. If you haven’t gotten it yet, some say you will likely get this one. XBB.1.5 circulating in at least 39 countries, and accounts for about 61-ish or so percent of the COVID cases nationwide (mostly on the East coast).

Someone on Twitter thought that it would be good to give this alarming variant an alarming name, rather than remembering another set of letters and numbers. WHO says XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible variant, and when I tell you that “Kraken is the most transmissible variant,” it’s got a lot more oomph.

What do we know? Kraken seems to be very “immune-evasive.” The measures we have taken so far to build our immunity, either from getting vaccinated or getting COVID — or both — have not been as effective at keeping people from getting infected but have still seemed to keep people from severe illness, hospitalization and death. There is limited data about the ability of Kraken to cause severe illness. It doesn’t seem to have any more ability to make people sicker than the other versions, but can still impact elderly and immunocompromised negatively. Repeated COVID infections seem to have a compounding effect in some cases, so do your best to avoid catching another version of COVID and stay safe out there!

Natural immunity to COVID-19? Some studies are looking into individuals who may have a genetic mutation to resist COVID-19 infection or illness. Hundreds of frontline workers and primary caregivers of individuals who had COVID have participated in these studies to see what has kept some people from ever getting sick and to hopefully find out if there is anything that can be applied to treatment and prevention strategies for the future. Mutations can be cool!

Annual Vaccines?

A committee of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on a proposal to simplify the nation’s strategy for vaccinating people against COVID-19 in an effort to simplify the process. How many did you get already? Did you get boostered? (Boosted?) Did you get the monovalent? The bivalent? How many of those do you need? How did you spread them out?

Even for those with the time, ability, and inclination to get vaccinated and do their homework, it’s confusing.

To solve this dilemma, the advisory committee is proposing standardizing COVID vaccines and they are also talking about just going with an annual vaccine—like we do with the flu. This will cut confusion and hopefully get more people back on track protecting themselves.

Vitamin S (D)

Vaccinated or not, we can all agree that getting some fresh air and sun is a good idea.

And after a wet and dark month, the sun is coming out! The lawn was even mowed at Palazzo Lewis-Lusso the other day! Even though we are always warned about the need to wear sunscreen and how dangerous the sun is, there are actually some pretty sweet benefits to taking a small dose of sunshine to help boost our vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D, or vitamin D deficiency (or hypovitaminosis D) has been linked to poor sleep, mood swings, dry skin, immune impairment, fatigue, joint pain, depression, and more. Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get vitamin D. 10-30 minutes of midday sun is recommended a few times a week, depending on how sensitive your skin is, how much melanin is in your skin, how far you are from the equator, etc. Wearing sunscreen does affect how much vitamin D will be generated, but we can’t minimize the dangers of too much sun exposure either. Sunscreen or no, get outside for ten minutes and try to enjoy a little sun, it may boost your mood!


Michelle Lewis-Lusso (she/her) is an Infection Prevention and Control nurse at United Indian Health Services, serving the 11,000+ clients and staff at their seven area clinics. She is in favor of naming diseases after mythical beasts.