But what does that mean? And how do we do that? For guidance, The Times asked more than a dozen epidemiologists about the next phase of the pandemic and how they’re approaching it.
Living with the virus “is an acknowledgment that eradication of SARS-CoV-2, like what we did with smallpox, is not feasible,” said Maria Sundaram, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. In practice, this readjustment will vary widely for different people depending on our personal health circumstances and the needs of those closest to us.
That’s going to require a huge mental shift and acceptance of “a new element of manageable risk in our lives,” said Eduardo Franco, the director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology at McGill University. “It means reacquiring behaviors, attitudes and social norms,” that have always been part of who we are. “My family has moved away from restricting our activities as the Omicron surge has receded,” said Kate Eisenberg, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester. “We do not have anyone with high-risk health conditions in the household, and we’re all vaccinated and boosted.”
Ultimately, the thinking goes, we’ll get to a point where the coronavirus is included into other common viruses we are used to dealing with all the time, said Pia MacDonald, an infectious disease epidemiologist at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute. “We should each reflect on how we live with other viruses that routinely circulate, such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, noroviruses and others.” Instead, we’ll need to rely on an arsenal of tools — including vaccines, paid sick leave and masks — to coexist with the virus while reducing our own risk and protecting others.
“I am taking my daughter to a Billie Eilish concert this weekend, which we’ve really been looking forward to,” she said. “We do still wear well-fitting masks, take home tests before getting together with friends and family, and assess the level of risk and local case levels before we go out.” Ms. Eisenberg is currently planning some family trips, including air travel, and she is allowing her 12- and 15-year-old children to participate in most social activities. She has been avoiding indoor dining and crowded indoor settings, but as cases continue to come down, she plans to go out more.
“I will still wear a mask to the grocery store for the foreseeable future and opt for restaurants that have good ventilation and where tables are well spaced out,” she said. “So long as cases are not surging locally, I will take advantage of mixing with my community at music, movie, theater and other venues, though will likely wear a mask out of habit.” Source: US Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.
Holiday interruptions to testing and data reporting may affect case and death trends. For Ms. MacDonald, the drop in cases has made her more comfortable entering other people’s homes without a mask, and having her older parents over for visits.
News Highlights Health
- Covid Live Updates: News on the Vaccine and Mask Mandate
- Check all news and articles from the Health news information updates.