How Will We Know When COVID Has Become Endemic?: 5 Tell-Tale Signs

How Will We Know When COVID Has Become Endemic?: 5 Tell-Tale Signs

With cases steadily dropping for over two months now, scientists are seeing signs that COVID-19 is transitioning from its pandemic phase to an endemic era. It’s predicted that soon enough, COVID-19 will be just like any other respiratory virus — although it won’t completely disappear, it will be more manageable and less fatal. 

Along with the virus’ transition to endemicity comes new plans to move forward to the next era of COVID-19. We’ve touched on States like California and Colorado, which are changing their COVID response to focus on preventing future surges instead of strategies bred by the crisis mentality. Now, the Biden administration has also released its revised national COVID-19 strategy in anticipation of COVID-19’s pandemic to endemic shift. 

Five Indications COVID-19 Has Become Endemic

While the virus’ move towards endemicity is beginning, we’re not quite there yet. So how will we know when endemicity has come to fruition and we can begin resuming our normal activities? Scientists reveal five tell-tale signs. 

1. Lower Case Numbers 

Public health officials have designed an alert system that signals potential surges and virus risk levels. According to the system, there is the lowest risk of future surges if case numbers stay below 200 per 100,000 people. These low case numbers can be achieved through immunity from vaccines and prior infections.

2. Decreasing Hospitalizations 

A virus does not become endemic until its hold over the population and ability to cause severe illness are still present. The health community is seeing lower hospitalization rates, which can indicate that fewer people are getting severely sick after contracting COVID-19. 

According to John Brownstein, P.h.D., hospitalization numbers are reliable statistics to rely on as they reflect COVID-19 risk levels and if they remain low, can suggest endemicity. 

3. Fewer Deaths

Death rates help determine how fatal the virus is and whether or not it poses a risk to society. As aptly put by epidemiologist Jodie Guest, fewer than 100 deaths a day is a sign that COVID-19 has completed its transition to endemicity. 

4. Dropping Wastewater Concentration

Wastewater has been used to identify diseases spreading in the community. In the U.S., we have the National Wastewater Surveillance System that connects 400 sewage sites across 28 States. According to recent wastewater data, virus levels have decreased in 70% of sewage sites, which may point to COVID-19’s pandemic phase being nearly over. 

5. Lower Risk of Outbreaks 

COVID-19 can only be considered endemic when the overall risk of outbreaks becomes relatively low. As new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths drop in number, public health officials are optimistic that a new surge is unlikely. However, they also have the responsibility of quickly identifying outbreak clusters and quashing potentially high levels of disease. 

We’re Not Quite There Yet

While all five signs of COVID-19’s endemicity are coming to light, it’s important to remember that we’re not out of the woods just yet. It’s premature to start thinking that COVID-19 is over, as we have a long way to go in vaccinating enough people to achieve herd immunity

It’s too early to start becoming complacent. While we’re in the transition to endemicity, let’s hold on a little longer and continue practicing basic health and safety measures like masking and social distancing to prevent any future surges and risks. 


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