How will we know when the COVID-19 crisis is truly over
Current vaccines are very effective against COVID-19, including the delta variant. This means very different results for those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Last month, for example, 92 people died from COVID-19 in the state of Maryland. Not all were vaccinated.
Local numbers can be the most informative
The most accurate indicators of progress or problems can be found at a very local level.
National and even state-level measures for infection or vaccination rates can be misleading, Mokdad says. A state’s overall immunization rate can mask much lower numbers in certain geographic pockets that remain highly vulnerable to epidemics.
The low vaccination rates facilitate the installation of the rapidly spreading variants.
While there are many ways to track progress (or lack thereof) in controlling the virus, Mokdad says one particularly useful metric is hospitalizations.
“There is no way to make a mistake or underreport hospitalization for COVID-19, because everyone who is going to the hospital right now is being tested for COVID-19,” he said .
This contrasts with the cases, which may not be counted due to a lack of testing, and the number of deaths, which can increase weeks after other indicators during an outbreak.
The coronavirus is likely to increase further this winter
Even though cases in the United States have improved a lot since the peak, health officials say unvaccinated people will likely continue to die from COVID-19 until we successfully control transmission.
Experts say the next big challenge will come this winter, when another wave is expected as people move indoors during the colder months. There will also likely be outbreaks when students return to school – children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines.
The dangerousness of the virus will depend on the vaccination levels of the population and the lethality of the variant circulating at the onset of winter. How quickly a state or local government is prepared to revert to restrictive measures – like wearing masks indoors – will also play a role.
âIn the short term, it will be seasonal, like what we see with the flu, just because we don’t have enough vaccines to get everyone in the world vaccinated,â Mokdad said.
If we do the right things like increase vaccine production, he says, we may no longer have to worry about COVID-19.
What the end of the crisis in the United States might look like
Goldman sees two possible scenarios for the United States in the near future.
The first is that the virus evolves to more easily escape the vaccines that have been administered.
If that happens, she says, “then we’ll have to go on a whole different round of revaccinating everyone.” Drug makers are already working on booster shots in case they become needed.
On the other hand, current vaccines could continue to be very effective.
In this case, Goldman believes that over the next few months “we will see near elimination of the pandemic, certainly in the United States and in Europe, in other rich countries, in Japan, in Taiwan â, while efforts will continue to immunize people in the rest of the world.
But it’s very likely, Goldman says, that even when we can say the pandemic is over, transmission will continue in parts of the country that have low vaccination rates.
But one thing is clear: Whatever happens, the effects of the pandemic – including long-term physical and mental health issues and economic fallout – will not end when the official emergency ends.