Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Over?

Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Over?

So, is the COVID-19 pandemic over? Or are we just waiting for a new surge or variant?

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Over?

As cases of COVID-19 drop, mask and immunization mandates lift, and summer appears on the horizon, many people across the United States seem to be returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic norms. Others are quietly remaining in their homes and voluntarily wearing masks in public.

So, is the COVID-19 pandemic over? Or are we just waiting for a new surge or variant?

On March 10, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that “more than 98% of the U.S. population is in a location with low or medium COVID-19 Community Level.”

What does this mean?

To determine the COVID-19 community level (low, medium or high), the CDC considers a combination of the following three metrics: (1) new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, (2) the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and (3) the total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.

What do these metrics show?

Knowing the number of new COVID-19 admissions and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds occupied shows the current potential strain on the health system. The data regarding new COVID-19 cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.

Areas considered at “Low” risk are those in which there have been fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people within a population, and that have also experienced fewer than 10 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people over the previous 7 days, and have less than 10% of staffed in-patient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients over the previous 7 days.

Areas considered at “Medium” risk are those in which there have been fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people within a population, and that have also experienced from 10-19.9 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 populations over the previous 7 days, and have 10-14.9% of staffed in-patient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients over the previous 7 days.

Areas considered at “High” risk are those that exceed the above thresholds (more than 200 new COVID-19 cases, more than 20 new COVID-19 hospital admissions, and have more than 15% of staffed in-patient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

So, in other words, according to the CDC’s latest findings, nearly all areas in the United States (counties, states, and territories) are experiencing fewer new COVID-19 cases, fewer COVID-19 patients being admitted to hospitals, and less strain on health care systems nationwide.

The CDC also recently stated, “At this point in the pandemic, many people are at much lower risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.”

But lower risk means only that–lower risk, not an end to the pandemic. According to the CDC’s statistics, approximately 254.3 million people (about 76.6% of the U.S. population) have received at least one dose of vaccine, and about 216.4 million people (about 65.2% of the U.S. population) have been fully vaccinated. Additionally, nearly 80 million people have already contracted COVID-19 (just under 1 million of whom died of the disease). While COVID-related deaths and illnesses are extremely unfortunate, it is comforting to know that risk levels are dropping.

So are we out of the woods yet?

Most experts say no.

A report by CBS Baltimore says while doctors and medical professionals may be “very optimistic,” about the pandemic, a return to full, pre-2020 conditions will not happen soon. Even though there are vastly fewer cases across the United States, that nevertheless equates to tens of thousands of new cases. And according to Johns Hopkins University, even though COVID-19 deaths are as low as they’ve been so far, an average of 1,200 Americans are still dying from the disease every day.

What comes next?

Experts advise that COVID-19 is transitioning from its pandemic stage to the endemic stage, wherein most people have had the disease or have been immune against it. However true “herd immunity” may be elusive simply because some Americans refuse to be immunized, which leaves a population where new variants of the virus can develop, which then may sweep through populations of the immunized and unimmunized populations alike.

Experts also advise that we closely watch the virus’s behavior in other countries. For example, in the U.K., Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy, a new surge is underway, and it began about 30 days after widespread relaxation of COVID-related restrictions and mandates. In China, more than 50 million people have been ordered into lockdown, indicating that the pandemic in that country may be as grave as it has ever been.

Going forward, the medical community seems to be united in exhibiting optimism tinged with extreme caution: COVID-19 will be with us for a while, perhaps years. All the precautions introduced in early 2020 are still perfectly valid: practice social distancing, wear masks in public (despite the lack of mandates), avoid super-spreader settings if possible, and wash hands frequently. Most importantly, be fully vaccinated and take advantage of boosters.

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/s0311-COVID-19-Community-Levels.html https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/ https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2022/03/14/heres-what-could-lie-ahead-for-the-us-in-the-third-year-of-the-pandemic/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2022/03/12/new-covid-19-coronavirus-wave-in-europe-may-have-already-begun-data-suggests/?sh=504926925d32 https://abcnews.go.com/International/china-orders-51-million-lockdown-covid-surges/story?id=83431247