How do we know when the COVID-19 pandemic has ended? How do we know when the COVID-19 has become endemic? When can we stop mandating masks and vaccines?
- When cases start to plummet?
- When the numbers of deaths begin to fall?
- When the virus mutates to a milder version?
- When more than 70% of the population gains natural immunity?
Encouraging data continues to reveal that, by several measures, the pandemic has become endemic and COVID-19 has become a much milder strain. Cases and deaths are declining and well over 70% of the population (maybe as many as 90%) now has immunity.
An epidemic refers to the rapid spread of a pathogen in a population. When an epidemic affects the entire world, it is called a pandemic. When the pathogen spreads at a relatively low level within a population, it is said to be endemic.
An epidemic happens when the reproductive number of the virus, R0, is greater than one. This means that each infected person goes on to infect more than one other person. Now, because up to 90% of the population has been infected, this leaves only 10% remaining to be infected, which means the reproductive number, R0, can only be less than 1.
78 million Americans have tested positive for COVID, as of February 15, 2022, according to Statista and Our World In Data. When this number is multiplied by four, a multiplier determined by the CDC, this means that over 300 million, (~90%) have most likely been infected with COVID-19.
After a steep increase in cases, as of February 22, 2022, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has plummeted.
Death Rate Drops
One sign that an epidemic is over is when enough people have immunity. The good news is this: most people now have immunity, either natural immunity or from vaccines. Even better news is that natural immunity appears to be as effective and durable as the vaccine. That said, immune-compromised people are still susceptible to the virus and need to be protected. While there is a hypothetically remote chance that COVID-19 will mutate to a more dangerous form, there is no evidence that this has happened in other viruses, which, in general, become weaker over time.
When the virus reaches a certain level in the population it is said to be endemic. This happens when we reach herd immunity.
According to experts (including Tony Fauci) 70% of the population must have immunity to achieve Herd Immunity.
“Experts estimate that in the U.S., 70% of the population
— more than 200 million people —
would have to recover from COVID-19 to halt the pandemic,”
according to the Mayo Clinic
Well over 70% (perhaps as many as 90%) of all Americans have natural immunity to COVID-19. And many more also have partial immunity due to vaccination.
78 million Americans have tested positive for COVID, as of February 15, 2022, according to Statista. When this number is multiplied by 4, a multiplier determined by the CDC, this means that, conservatively, around 300 million have most likely been exposed to COVID-19. 300 million people of 332 million people represents around 90% of the population. In other words, around 90% of the US population is naturally immune to COVID-19, if the CDC’s data is reliable.
OMICRON is MILD
Although COVID-19 is now endemic, this does not mean it is gone.
Although COVID is now endemic, it has mutated to a far milder strain, which is closer to other human coronaviruses which cause the common cold. (Note that to an immune-compromised person, even the common cold can be deadly).
Omicron is a much milder strain of COVID-19. Just how mild is it? According to a large study of 50,000 in Southern California, fewer than 0.1% of those who tested positive for Omicron were hospitalized and none were ventilated. See this study for details: Clinical outcomes among patients infected with Omicron (B.1.1.529) SARS-CoV-2 variant in southern California.
COVID-19 Is Endemic
Given that around 90% of the US population has contracted COVID-19, and that a virus is considered endemic when more than 70% of the population has been infected, we can now say that COVID-19 is now endemic and the pandemic is over.
While many who have lost loved ones are still grieving, even they may celebrate that this pandemic appears to be behind us.
Just because COVID-19 is now waning in its health risks and because most people are now immune, this does not mean we should lose our vigilance in protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
Based on what we have learned, we can better protect ourselves by bolstering our immune systems with good food, good friends, enough vitamin D, Zinc, and appropriate rest. We can celebrate that health care providers are now equipped with better early treatments that can prevent hospitalizations. As new information becomes available, we will be able to access the safety and efficacy of the various vaccines and treatments, so that we are better informed to choose what works and to avoid those that are unsafe and ineffective.