Could the COVID-19 pandemic end with this omicron surge as the virus turns endemic? Here’s what experts say

SAN FRANCISCO — The pandemic is “reasonably likely” to be expected to end within a month of today, although COVID-19 is likely to remain, according to the chairman of the Department of Medicine at the San Francisco Department of Medicine. ‘UCSF, Dr. Robert Wachter .

He expects infections to decline and community immunity levels to rise through a combination of vaccinations, antiviral drugs and omicron infections as the pandemic enters a new phase – becoming endemic.

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This sentiment is shared by other infectious disease experts in the field.

“The end game really brings the virus down to low levels where we just live with it. And what omicron will do is bring the virus down to low levels in the community because it causes so much immunity” , said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician and professor of medicine at UCSF. “That will bring it back to a controllable phase, which we call endemicity. So after this surge, we should be in the end game of the pandemic and in endemic.”

“In the next few weeks, we expect the numbers to start falling pretty soon in California, and there’s evidence that’s happening elsewhere as well. So what we’re really hoping for is moving to a phase where we know we have to live with this virus,” says Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases) and Population Epidemiology and Health at Stanford Medicine, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado.

The four doctors interviewed told ABC7 News in San Francisco that they believe SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay, but expressed cautious optimism that we are turning a corner for the better.

“It’s got to end up becoming endemic at some point, so yeah, I’m guessing it would be this year. I based it a lot on what we see in other countries that are probably more vaccinated than us. The line is that if we want to control transmission, we need to be vaccinated and reinforced,” said UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford.

The four doctors indicate that vaccinations are the main way to reach endemicity.

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“Of 1.2 million people in a particular health care study who were fully vaccinated, only 36 people in that group died. And there were about 2,500 infections. So that was a infection rate of about 0.2%, so if you are vaccinated and you are potentially exposed and infected with omicron, your risk of serious illness, death or other complications is going to be extremely low. of this pandemic,” says Dr. Maldonado.

“I think there is a chance that we can get rid of the pandemic – which means big increases in hospitalizations and deaths, and maybe get to a point where we have circulation of the virus with less d “hospitalizations and deaths and maybe the same or more infections, but not leading to bad outcomes. And we’re going to have to learn to live with that with vaccinations. And and we’re going to have to learn more to know if we can stop to mask ourselves at some point later this year. If so the disease becomes less severe,” she says.

However, Dr Wachter says that while he can predict a drop in infections with some confidence for the spring and possibly the summer, he is not as confident to say the same for the fall and winter later this year. “A lot of it depends on whether there’s a newer, worse variant.”

He says the degree of immunity from infection to omicron alone is also still unknown. “For unvaccinated people, if their only immunity is from infection, it really depends on how good that immunity is and how long it lasts. If it starts to decline and they’re vulnerable again, then we might see a another significant increase. But I’m moderately optimistic,” says Dr. Wachter.

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