18 months into the pandemic, when does COVID-19 become ‘endemic’?

NOW: 18 months into the pandemic, when does COVID-19 become ‘endemic’?

BENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — With most of our Michiana counties at a high transmission rate and the Delta variant continuing to spread – particularly among young people – we asked the experts what the state of the pandemic looks like moving forward.

“While there are some other variants of interest, none are as transmissible as the Delta variant,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

The changing of the seasons doesn’t just bring back memories of carving pumpkins and leaves turning colors this year, the crisp air is also a reminder of the COVID surge the colder weather brought last year.  

“We’re really kind of worried about what that might look like as we come into the fall and winter, as we know last winter was when we saw significant COVID activity,” said Conrad.

This year, there is much more optimism though, with a fully approved vaccine and greater understanding of how the virus works and what mitigation measures help.  

Things like masking and social distancing practically eliminated last year’s flu season and could happen again if they people keep their guard up.

“Both the flu and COVID are respiratory viruses that spread very much the same way,” said Conrad.  

The Delta variant has been the dominant strain for months and some experts say it may be COVID’s last substantial mutation. 

While Lambda and Beta are emerging, one of the Oxford vaccine creators – the version approved in the European Union – said the virus continues to be less infectious as it passes through the population and we may wind up living with lower levels of it for years to come.

“One way or the other we’ll all end up with the antibodies we need where COVID isn’t able to spread as easily, we are past the pandemic state and in an endemic state where COVID is part of the viruses we deal with – there are four other coronaviruses we deal with with on a yearly basis,” said Conrad.

But it’s antibodies through vaccination, not infection that could cause death, they want to see. 

“When we move past a pandemic state is really anyone’s guess, it could take months or years,” said Conrad. “We don’t want to take any more chances with having people dying in our path toward herd immunity.”

While the Berrien County Health Department said COVID mitigation measures prevented many flu infections last year, it’s still important to actually get the flu vaccine right now and increase your immunity.

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