(WXYZ) — For months now, we've all been waiting for our world to return back to normal. Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic will end once we transition to endemic circulation.
This usually happens when death rates are slow and the spread of the virus slows way down.
The bad news – most of us are likely stuck with COVID-19 for the rest of our lives. The good news is it will eventually fade into the background and cause minimal disruption in our daily lives.
A common example is the flu endemic. It still spreads and it can still kill people, but that isn't happening at high rates across an entire population.
"It's not that we flip a switch and then all a sudden we are in an endemic situation," Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the MDHHS Chief Medical executive, said.
There's no magic number or exact timeline for when the pandemic will end, but generally speaking, if more people get vaccinated and infections slow down, COVID-19 could become a manageable threat, thus entering the endemic phase.
"That will change how our COVID-19 response works," Bagdasarian said. "How our testing response works how our contact tracing and investigation works, so we are definitely looking long term."
Certain states and cities with high vaccination rates San Francisco are already beginning a phased approach to endemic status by easing COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr. Matthew Sims said in a lot of cases, the so-called return to normal may be happening too fast.
"It still has a lot of potentials to overwhelm the healthcare system at any given point when there's a new surge," he said.
With every pandemic, lessons are learned.
"I think that one of the things we've learned as a country is that we need to invest in public health infrastructure so that we are ready for the next pandemic and ready for public health threats in the future," Bagdasarian said.
Also, we as a society adopt new habits like mask-wearing. Something many people say they will continue to do once the pandemic ends.
Because the global response to COVID-19 was not uniform, it's likely our path to endemic status won't be either.
"There are going to be lots of different metrics that are involved and it will be a very slow and deliberate process," Bagdasarian said.
Now that kids between the ages of 5 and 11 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, we could be one step closer to an endemic state.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.
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