COVID-19 could become an endemic, but what does that mean?

Thousands of people are getting their coronavirus vaccine every day in Florida. And across the globe, millions of shots are going into arms weekly.

And as there seems to be progress in the fight against COVID-19, researchers are looking at what this virus has in store for us in the future.

Channel 9 reporter Alexa Lorenzo talked with a doctor out of the University of Florida who said COVID-19 could be with us for years to come, which would shift this from a pandemic virus to an endemic one.

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But while that could be worrisome, he said that, down the line, COVID-19 could resemble a common cold.

But what is an endemic?

“In an endemic situation, the pathogen is always there,” said Dr. Marco Salemi with the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida.

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In other words, people will have to learn to coexist with COVID-19.

But why won’t it go away?

Scientists said COVID-19 spreads with ease, and it’s quickly mutating. In Florida, we now have 343 cases of the new, more contagious U.K. mutation, far more than any other state.

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“The more the virus (is) circulating the population, the more people get infected, the more the virus has a chance to replicate new data,” Salemi said.

That means COVID-19 could end up as an endemic virus that people are somewhat regularly exposed to. But because of the incredibly effective vaccines, researchers predict the virus will circulate at low levels and rarely cause severe illness, so rigid restrictions wouldn’t necessarily remain.

“This doesn’t mean that we have to (wear) masks for the next 20 years,” Salemi said. “Hopefully, through vaccination and some intervention right now, in the next few months, we will get to a situation where the level of infection will be so low we can go back to our normal or semi-normal life.”

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And although COVID-19 could be around for good, there’s a chance it could show some pattern of predictability with peaks through the year, like influenza.

Adam Poulisse,

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.