News

When Will the COVID-19 Pandemic End?

The health journal features the views of Peter Doshi, University of Maryland Pharmacy professor and David Robertson of Princeton University. “The pandemic’s end will not be broadcast on television,” they write. BMJ. The experts point out, “There’s no one universal definition of what epidemiological indicators indicate that a pandemic is over.” They ask, “By which metric will we determine that the pandemic is over?”

Robertson and Doshi reviewed three pandemics of influenza in 20th-century America, including one that claimed the lives of an estimated 675,000. They concluded there would be no “end” to the epidemic. Instead, they predict that the pandemic “gradually diminishes” as the society adapts to new diseases and normalcy returns.

Robertson and Doshi note that prior pandemics didn’t have tolls. Instead, they were updated daily on digital dashboards accessible via the internet. The pandemic dashboards “provide endless fuel, ensuring that the constant newsworthiness and relevance of the covid-19 Pandemic is maintained, even though the risk may be low,” they claim. “In doing so, [pandemic dashboards]The pandemic could be prolonged by decreasing a feeling of closure and a return back to pre-pandemic times. What is their advice? The single best way to stop the pandemic is to deactivate or disconnect yourself from your dashboards.

In May 2020, just three months into the COVID-19 pandemic when there had been only 1.4 million cases and 82,000 deaths in the U.S., I cited an article in which New York TimesGina Kolata, science reporter asked: “When will Covid-19’s pandemic stop?” How? Pandemics end medically when there is a drop in disease rates and death. This can be achieved by mass vaccination or mass infection. Socially, however, pandemics end when people stop panicking and accept the fact that they have to live with the disease.

As Americans began to get vaccinated more often in June 2021 I believed that normalcy and the end of the pandemic were near. Daily COVID-19 death rates were close to those from a flu season. My conclusion was that normality, if it is not yet here, could be achieved unless a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant becomes resistant to vaccines.

On July 4, President Joe Biden delivered a speech at the White House “celebrating Independence Day” and Independence from COVID-19. Biden did, however, caution, “Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 is—has not been vanquished. It is well-known that there are powerful variants, such as the Delta variant. However, the best way to protect yourself against them all is to be vaccinated.

A highly transmissible, vaccine-resistant strain has emerged. However, it is possible to cause less severe diseases. The best defense is vaccinations and booster shots.

It would be amazing if infections by an extremely contagious, but very mild, omicron variant could accelerate the process for achieving herd immunity which could help us to immunize ourselves against future coronavirus variants. The best case scenario is that the omicron variants are extremely contagious, but not deadly. This could speed up our ability to achieve herd immunity which would allow us to be protected against future coronavirus variants. BMJ authors may well be right that turning off our screens might improve our mental health—still, it will not make the virus go away.