Virus Expert Predicts When Pandemic Will End
With many European countries lifting pandemic restrictions and attempting to return to a pre-COVID-19 way of life, experts say it's only a matter of time before the U.S. follows suit. "The fact that the world and the United States are just up to here with COVID – they just really need to somehow get their life back," says Dr Anthony Fauci. "You don't want to be reckless and throw everything aside, but you've got to start inching towards that. Is the impact on mental health, is the impact on development of kids, is the impact on schools – is that balanced against trying to be totally pristine and protecting against infection? I don't have the right answer to that." Here is what virus experts are predicting about when the pandemic will become an endemic. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Second Boosters Cleared For Over 50s
The FDA has announced that a second round of boosters will be made available for people over 50 and those with underlying medical conditions. Peter Marks, Ph.D, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the FDA strongly recommends that anyone who is eligible for the new booster get it. "At some point we're going to have to realize that this is a virus that's going to be with us and that we have to come to grips with dealing with it on a regular basis," Dr. Marks says.
"[The second booster] is especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease," says Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Spain Moves Towards Endemic Status
Spain is moving towards treating the COVID-19 virus as an endemic rather than a pandemic, with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez saying "the virus is no longer so deadly"—but not everyone agrees. "I think this is more about politics than public health. After each wave, they make a new suggestion. Earlier it was the outdoor face masking, now it is to stop counting and stop testing," says Dr. Jeffrey Lazarus, from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). "Governments in power need to think about how they are going to handle the next election but they also need to really take a public health approach. Restrictions can be lessened when cases go down, it doesn't mean that they might not be reinstalled if cases, and particularly hospitalisations, go up if there's a new variant or if we find that we need an additional booster."
Sweden Lifts All Pandemic Restrictions
Sweden has ended free COVID-19 testing and is dropping pandemic restrictions, including the ban on non-essential travel from third world countries. "We have already lifted the entry ban within the EU. Now the Government has decided not to extend the entry ban from third countries. This will make it much easier for everyone who has been prevented from coming to Sweden in recent years due to the pandemic," says Morgan Johansson, Minister for Justice and Home Affairs.
Denmark Also Drops Pandemic Rules
Despite the Omicron variant spreading across Europe, Denmark has fully re-opened the country, and lifted all pandemic restrictions. "We are ready to step out of the shadow of the coronavirus. We say 'goodbye' to restrictions and 'welcome' to the life we knew before," says Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
Some experts believe COVID-19 is here to stay—but it can be managed. "What I think of as an infectious disease specialist, an endemic means that the disease is still around but that it's at a level that is not causing significant disruption in our daily lives," says Stephen Parodi, MD. "That being said, endemic disease can be at different levels, and of course, we've lived with endemic diseases in the past, right? We've had measles, mumps, rubella. Before we had vaccines available, those were endemic as well. What's different about COVID-19 is that we do have a choice now about the level of endemicity… Now we've got to be prepared for potential COVID ups and downs that are not tied to a season. So, that's actually has been some of the operational discussions that we've had. How can we turn on the isolation, turn on the search capacity, rather than doing it as an emergency response?"
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.