When will the COVID-19 pandemic end? Experts weigh in

WASHINGTON — With concern about the new omicron variant spreading, you may be asking yourself if this pandemic ever end.

Health officials said they are still cautiously optimistic about things eventually winding down.

Health experts said the key word is “adapt,” and they say there won’t be a day when COVID-19 is gone forever.

READ: Omicron variant: CDC recommends COVID-19 booster for all adults amid latest threat

“Everyone wants there to be an end day, a day when we declare the pandemic is over. No one asks about when is the end of the flu, for example.

This is a disease that will be us, for the foreseeable future, it’s going to come and go,” said Dr. David Dowdy, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Instead, we’ll be shifting to a new normal, where the COVID-19 virus comes and goes like other viruses.

Compared to last year, Dr. Dowdy said we have more tools to combat COVID-19, including several vaccines, new treatments and greater immunity.

READ: Omicron variant: What are the symptoms; are vaccines effective; what we know now

Similar to the flu, experts said, in the future there will likely be winter surges of COVID-19 and even local outbreaks.

Doctors say the goal is to boost immunity levels to the point where the levels of serious illness, hospitalizations and death are limited.

“The question really is, how can we get levels of serious illness, people having long-term effects, being in the hospital and in unfortunate cases, dying, how can we get that to a level that we can tolerate as a society? We need to be thinking in those terms, not how can we get to a point of zero COVID. Because zero COVID is not going to happen,” said Dowdy.

READ: 9 things to know about the new COVID-19 omicron variant

Experts say we can’t think about an endgame to COVID-19 without increasing vaccination rates.

“More than a third of the people in the U.S. who haven’t been vaccinated say they are still willing to get the shot, and more than half the world’s population isn’t vaccinated, so our number one public health priority remains getting as many people fully vaccinated as possible,” said Dowdy.

Experts estimate that vaccinating young children could prevent 600,000 infections within the next few months.

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