When does COVID-19 end? A year into the pandemic, public health experts say: never
When will this finally end? That is the question many go through after a year.
But public health experts say we have an answer, and you won’t like it: COVID-19 will never end. It seems poised now to become an endemic disease – one that is always a part of our environment no matter what we do.
“We were told this virus will go away. But it won’t go away,” says Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the medical school at Vanderbilt University and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told CBS News.
“We have to control it. We have to reduce its impact. But it will be about harassing us for the foreseeable future. And by that I mean – years.”
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. A year later, the virus infected 118 million people worldwide and killed over 2.6 million people, including more than 530,000 Americans Johns Hopkins University.
At the same time,have been developed at an unprecedented rate and have been administered to nearly 330 million people worldwide.
However, researchers say there is simply no track record of completely eradicating infectious diseases, and everything about COVID-19 shows that it will be no different.
“The more contagious a microbe, the harder it is to control,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, CEO of Resolve To Save Lives and former CDC director, told CBS News. “COVID is very difficult to control and the new variations suggest that we may be playing some kind of cat and mouse game.”
Before COVID, people were already used to living with endemic diseases. The flu is an example. Measles is another. Both spread and kill people every year despite decades of vaccination and containment.
Even the virus that causes COVID-19 is just a new type of coronavirus. other coronaviruses had been around for a long time and could cause colds in some cases. COVID itself has already gone through Mutations that made it more contagious and possibly more deadly.
The only infectious disease in modern history that has been eradicated worldwide was smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated in 1980. However, this was almost 200 years after the first smallpox vaccine was developed. Smallpox also spread relatively slowly, and people who had it developed a pronounced rash, making the disease easier to identify and control.
The new coronavirus is now highly contagious and at the same time causes many asymptomatic infections. You can’t look at anyone and know if they have the virus. COVID-19 has also been shown to spread to both animals and humans, with infections in tigers, gorillas, monkeys,, Cats and dogs.
Scientists say all of this makes the virus essentially impossible to control.
“It is quite unrealistic to think that we can eliminate a virus from both the human population and its natural reservoirs,” says Dr. Anita McElroy of the University of Pittsburgh Medical School told CBS News.
She adds that the world will always have “pockets of the population where the virus continues to spread and is vulnerable,” as many people choose not to get vaccinated – either for medical reasons or out of personal resistance to it Vaccine.
But doctors say just because COVID stays here doesn’t mean it will disrupt our lives as much as it did last year. Vaccination and containment measures will eventually bring the pandemic under control, potentially turning COVID into another disease that we are simply learning to live with.
Schaffner points out that the flu remains a serious threat – it infects millions of Americans and kills tens of thousands every year – yet it has become so familiar that many people don’t even bother to get vaccinated for it every year .
“Could it be that we will get to know COVID so well later that we also develop a certain nonchalance?” he says. “Yes. We tend to do that in the United States.”
Schaffner says it would be best to give up the idea of ”returning to normal” and instead settle for the “new normal” in which COVID continues to shape our lives.
COVID vaccinations could become an annual ritual for millions. Masks could remain the order of the day for the elderly and those with underlying illnesses. Your family celebrations may be shaped by who is vaccinated, while more vulnerable people only attend Zoom.
“The third, fourth, and fifth years of COVID shouldn’t be anywhere near as dire as the first,” he says. But in this new normal, “many of us will no longer be as carefree as we used to be.”