What COVID might look like in the United States when we reach the endemic phase: NPR
What COVID might look like in the United States when we reach the endemic phase: NPR

What COVID might look like in the United States when we reach the endemic phase: NPR

A mask is lying on the ground at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on April 19.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images


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Spencer Platt / Getty Images


A mask is lying on the ground at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on April 19.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

If it feels like everyone you know has COVID-19 right now, you’re not alone. In many parts of the United States, the number of cases is increasing, and much of this increase is driven by subvariants of the omicron variant of coronavirus.

And this new wave of cases could be an insight into what the endemic phase of COVID-19 will look like, according to Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to President Biden on COVID-19 and a former head of Medicare and Medicaid in the Obama administration.

The United States is not in an endemic phase yet, Slavitt said, and the country probably will not know it until it is in it because, as he put it, “the best definition of endemic, as I have heard, is just when the surprises are away and it will be predictable. “

“Endemic does not necessarily mean that everyone is safe, and endemic does not necessarily mean that people no longer lose their lives. It just means that it follows a predictable pattern. And what we do not know, but we may witness, is some clues as to what a predictable pattern will look like when we fit into one. “

Slavitt outlines the tools the United States has to deal with COVID-19 going forward, the factors that may change his assessment, and the calculation of shifts vs. operation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On the tools that the United States has that can help people live as normal a life as possible

The best news of all is that we have incredible scientific tools, vaccines, boosters, oral therapies. And while none of them are perfect, down the road, when you combine them with what our own immune system does and the continued improvement of those tools, the stratified immunity we have, COVID should become less and less deadly.

It will still be dangerous and still dangerous for people who are weak, people who are immunocompromised. But even in those situations, the tools are getting better and better. So what we really want to know is if it gets more serious? And is it becoming more frequent? And will the vaccines and tools we have continue to work? And if we are in a situation where we need to update our vaccines once or twice a year, we need to be prepared to do so.

About the Strangers Who Can Change His Assessment of How Close the United States is to an Endemic Phase of COVID-19

So scientists are talking about this notion of operation versus shift, and what they mean by it being an operation virus would indicate that we will just continue to see more progressions, almost rising up of new omicron, with 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4. And a drift is a better scenario than a shift. A shift is where we would get a whole new Greek letter in this case with completely different mutations and characteristics.

What’s better about an operation is that our body generally forms better immunity in earlier versions, protecting us from newer versions. And our vaccines will generally be more adapted to what we see next time than they would be if we were to see a shift.

So the big question is, should we be in operating mode? And how long will we be in operating mode? Or should we go back to switch mode where we will see a delta and omicron etc? No one knows the answer, but there are a number of scientists who say that the number of times we want to see a major shift can be quite rare – can be as rare as once a year.

Reaching the endemic phase of COVID-19 will deter other precautions, including masks and vaccines

Well, predictability will be a good thing. You know, if we knew we were going to see COVID-19 every June and every December, we might not like it, but it would at least tell us that we can take the kind of precautions we need to take back then. , and we do not have to take them other parts of the year. What bothers people is to feel that they are taking precautions during periods when it does not matter. So you know we do not give people flu vaccination in April, May and June because the risk of flu then is quite low.

So if we understand it well enough, and it becomes predictable enough, I think you can do targeted campaigns to say, “Hey, every time that happens, it’s these precautions we need to take. We need to wear masks. We have to stay away from those kinds of crowds and those kinds of situations if we are immunocompromised. But other times of the year, go ahead, live your life, things get more or less safer. “

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