With Omicron rates on the rise, you may be asking yourself with despair when – or even if – this pandemic is ever going to end.
the good news is that it Will End. Experts agree with this. We are not going to eliminate COVID-19 completely, but we will see it move out of the pandemic phase and into the endemic phase.
Endemicity means the virus will circulate in some parts of the global population for years, but its prevalence and impact would come down to a relatively manageable level, so it ends up more like the flu than a disease stopping the world.
For an infectious disease to be classified as endemic, the rate of infection must be more or less stable over the years, rather than showing large, unpredictable spikes, as COVID-19 is doing. “A disease is endemic if the reproduction number is stable at one,” explained Boston University epidemiologist Eleanor Murray. “This means that one infected person infects, on average, one other person.”
We are nowhere near that right now. The highly contagious omicron type means that each infected person is infecting more than one person, resulting in cases spreading around the world. No one can look at the following chart and can reasonably conclude that we are in endemic territory.
Looking at this data you can think of some of the predictions that were floating around before Omicron came on the scene. In the fall, some health experts were saying they thought the delta variant could represent the last major task for this pandemic, and that we could reach endemicity in 2022.
The outlook is now more uncertain. So how should you think about the pandemic’s trajectory and timeline in the new year? And how should Omicron shape your daily decision making and risk calculations?
When we know we’re finally in “endemic” territory
There’s a big question here that you’ll probably like the answer to: does Omicron push spatialite into the future? Or could it actually speed our way by infecting a population fast enough that we can more quickly develop a layer of natural immunity?
“It’s really the million-dollar question,” Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told me. “It’s really hard to say right now.”
This is partly because endemism is not just about reducing the reproduction number of the virus to one. This is the bare minimum to earn an endemic classification, but there are other factors that come into play: What are the rates of hospitalization and death? Has the health care system become overburdened to the point of acute shortage of space or staffing shortage? Are there treatments available to reduce the number of people who become seriously ill?
In general, a virus becomes endemic when we (health experts, government bodies and the public) Collectively decide that we are okay with accepting the level of impact of the virus – in other words, it no longer constitutes an active crisis.
With Omicron growing right now and many governments re-imposing drastic precautions as a result, it is clear that we are still in a state of crisis. “But it depends a lot on the burden on the health care system,” Rasmussen said. “And it will vary from community to community.”
Even though Omicron is giving results so far In milder disease than in previous forms, a massive increase in cases can still lead to a large increase in hospitalizations and deaths. This could put further strain on health care systems that are already in dire straits. So Rasmussen concludes that “Omicron certainly has the ability to delay spatiality.”
But there are some promising things to keep in mind as well. “The incredible number of infections is building up population-level immunity. This will be important in terms of muting future waves,” said Joshua Michaud, associate director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
He added that while omicrons are potentially building up some immunity in large numbers of people who are becoming infected, vaccinations and boosters are also contributing to “building an important immune wall.” But he cautioned that “it’s a wallop for the forms we’ve already seen. There may be another type that can escape immunity down the road.” Some experts are already speculating that Omicron Being infected with HIV may not give you much protection against other types, although a small preliminary study has shown positive signs on that front.
That’s why Ramusen says the “key determinant” of when the pandemic ends is how long it will take to make vaccines accessible around the world (and to combat ongoing vaccine hesitation). Currently, we are not vaccinating the world fast enough to starve the virus of opportunities to transform into something new and serious. “If only a small number of people are getting vaccines, we will continue to play variant whack-a-mole indefinitely,” Rasmussen said.
In the meantime, we have another ace up our sleeve, which will hopefully be available worldwide sooner rather than later: new treatments – Like Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and Merck’s Molnupiravir—also FDA-approved—reduced rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
“Very important in terms of localization are antiviral pills,” Michaud said. “If we have those tools, we’re looking at a very different state going into 2022. People shouldn’t feel like we’re back to square one.”
We are not back in March 2020. But it makes sense to modify our behavior during the omicron boom.
Despite the grim headlines, we are in a much better position than we were at the start of the pandemic. We have discovered a lot more information about how Covid-19 works. We have tested effective masks, vaccines, boosters, treatments and more.
We have also learned that being depressed comes at a real cost to our mental and economic health and wellbeing. The cost of a stricter lockdown in March 2020 may have been worthwhile, but overall US experts are no longer advising.
However, they are urging us to exercise more caution than the weeks leading up to Omicron.
Take, for example, Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. In the fall, he shifted from being very cautious about Covid-19 to taking some more calculated risks, including dining indoors in restaurants and even a personal meeting with 300 attendees. Including hosting a medical conference. But now that cases are on the rise because of Omicron, he’s getting more cautious again.
“I see the next few months as a time to strengthen one’s security behavior,” he said. wrote on Twitter. Here’s how he explained his reasons:
…and the most important people (many MD/RNs are ill too). Trust me, you want to avoid getting sick when the system is stressed. Third, I see Pfizer Oral Anti-Viral as a great deal, and it won’t be available for 4-6 weeks (even then it will be in short supply).(10/25)
— Bob Watcher (@Bob_Wachter) December 17, 2021
Other experts I spoke to agreed that now is the time to limit risky activities.
“I took my foot off the brake in terms of my behavior. But now I’ve started putting it on again,” Michaud told me. “I canceled plans to go to New Jersey to visit my family over Christmas. I’m avoiding more indoor environments. So far, it means a lot to me that I keep myself and those around me from getting infected. Take extra steps to save from
After the omicron wave passes, he said, he imagines the precautions at ease again. Modeling suggests that the omicron may peak in the US as early as late January, with case rates dropping sharply – and activities getting safe again – in February.
Rasmussen is also modifying her behavior in light of Omicron, although she emphasizes that this is not the same as going back to spring. 2020-style lockdown. Although she canceled an international flight during the holidays, she felt comfortable going to her colleague’s house for Christmas dinner. That’s because vaccinations, boosters, rapid tests and better ventilation were working in his favor and in his favor.
“We have a lot more tools than we did in March 2020 to deal with this,” she said.
We’ll know endemism has arrived when those tools – and the long, painful experience of pandemics – have enabled us to fully adapt to the virus, as the virus has adapted to us.
Update, 1 January 2022: This story has been updated to reflect new evidence on the severity of Omicron disease.