In an interview broadcast on 60 minutesPresident Joe Biden announced the pandemic was ending in the United States “We still have a problem with COVID,” Biden said, “but the pandemic is over.”
Although the comment seems somewhat contradictory, it captures the ongoing struggle among scholars to determine where we stand with the current COVID-19[feminine] pandemic. In other words, scientists simply cannot agree on whether the pandemic was a problem of the past or whether continuous cases indicate that the pandemic is far from over.
The crux of the matter is that, despite what we want, diseases are difficult to eradicate and pandemics do not end decisively. They rarely result in a disease that disappears completely. Instead, they usually come to an end when a disease becomes “endemic”, moving to another stage of activity – albeit with a more stable and manageable case rate.
So what exactly does it mean when a pandemic disease becomes endemic, and will COVID-19 ever see the change?
Differentiate between endemic, epidemic and pandemic diseases
It makes sense to start with the basics. Scientists who study the development and spread of disease tend to describe conditions in terms of their circulation in particular populations. And, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)three of the main descriptors include the terms ‘endemic’, ‘epidemic’ and ‘pandemic’.
To begin with, scientists apply the term “endemic” when a disease maintains a permanent presence in a specific area and appears at a relatively predictable rate. Although this is not necessarily the ideal or desired occurrence of the disease – which may not occur at all – this state is what scientists consider stable and manageable. For the most part, endemic diseases are still active and still pose a threat to individual patientsbut they rarely increase in surprising ways or cause significant disruption in the day-to-day activities of a community.
All of this is true of two familiar endemic diseases, Common cold and the seasonal fluthat circulate in predictable patterns and tend not to create medical crises in the United States
Alternatively, specialists use the terms “epidemic” and “pandemic” after sharp and sudden increases in a disease beyond what scientists normally anticipate. While “epidemics” affect a specific area, such as a single state or country, “pandemics” are much more widespread, spreading across populations and affecting multiple countries or continents at once.
The widespread impacts of COVID-19 have maintained the pandemic status of the virus since March 2020, but that does not mean that COVID-19 will remain a pandemic forever. In fact, viruses can jump from one state to another thanks to circumstances such as the appearance of new variants or the development of new vaccines. Thus, even if certain diseases cannot be totally eradicated, they can transition from pandemic to endemic stage with the right treatment.
The trick, say the scientists, is increase immunity in large scale. This stabilizes the occurrence of a disease, pushing it towards an endemic status. In the case of COVID-19, increasing exposure to the virus via variants like micron and the increasing use of vaccines mean that more and more people are gaining some immunity to COVID-19 in the United States. With this immunity swellingscientists predict that the virus will spread on an increasingly regular basis.
When will COVID-19 become endemic?
So when, exactly, does a disease become endemic, and will COVID-19 ever achieve that status? Because what scientists consider “stable” differs depending on the disease and the population it afflicts, endemicity is best determined after the fact, once stabilization has already occurred. Simply put, there is no clear scientific consensus on whether COVID-19 is currently endemic or not.
Thus, some scientists claim that the virus has already lost its pandemic tag. In a interview as of April, for example, Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said the United States was already “emerging from the pandemic phase.” Still, others say the transformation will take a bit longer, with a paper of July indicating that the median time for the change to occur is 1,437 days after the start of the pandemic, which remains more than a year away.
Although it’s still probably too early to tell, what matters most is the fact that the majority of experts believe that COVID-19 will trade its pandemic status for endemic status. ultimatelybecoming easier to prevent and treat as a result of trade.
In fact, many specialists share relatively similar ideas of what COVID-19 endemicity will look like. Once the virus gains endemic status, they say it will likely act like other common endemic conditions, turning into a perennial or seasonal disease that is much more of an inconvenience or annoyance than a real danger to the vast majority of people affected. “People will always be infected,” Fauci said in a interview last November. “People could still be hospitalized, but the level would be so low that we [wouldn’t] think about it all the time, and it [wouldn’t] influence what we do.”
Of course, continued caution will be needed to prevent another COVID-19 pandemic from breaking out, and vaccines and vaccine boosters will remain of utmost importance. But, while the virus isn’t going away anytime soon, the bottom line is that the disease will likely transition to a more stable and less disruptive state, that is, if it hasn’t already made the transition.