Regina Perez, 57, had never been hospitalized for her lifelong asthma condition until she came down with COVID-19 this month.

She started having difficulty breathing, even after taking her usual medications. "It kind of took over, almost,” she said. She wound up at St. Luke’s Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for most of a week at a time when nearly all the COVID-19 patients sampled had contracted the omicron variant.

The episode frightened her. While doctors were able to get her asthma and breathing under control, "I’ll probably be scared for the rest of my life,” she said. Perez, who was fully vaccinated and is now recovering at home, said she had spent the past two years doing everything she could to avoid infection, including working from home and rarely going out. She has not yet gotten a booster shot.