This is a COVID Update. I’ll also ponder again if we have entered the endemic phase of COVID.
In the US, and San Diego County, case numbers are beginning to climb slightly, perhaps suggesting the start of a fall wave of new cases. California isn’t showing this trend yet. Hospitalizations are not rising for the time being, so all this means more people are entering the medical system with COVID, but this isn’t yet translating into more hospitalizations. So current cases are more mild and moderate than severe. This trend is new, so we may see this change later.
Is COVID endemic yet? An epidemic is an outbreak in a larger region like a state, country or even continent. A pandemic is an outbreak that spans multiple continents. An outbreak becomes endemic when it becomes widespread in an area and is beyond control by disease prevention means. For example, flu and HIV are both endemic, a now permanent part of life in the world. Many people I have spoken to have believed that COVID has been endemic for a long time, and perhaps was always destined to be. I was optimistic for a long time, thinking that our immune systems would be able to eventually catch up with it and make it extinct. Unfortunately, I think I lost hope in that this week. Some of you are saying “what took you so long?” I get it. But I think it’s important to have good reasons for why we believe something.
We have generally had single dominant COVID variant in each region, with a few less important versions going around too. In the US, we had Wuhan, then Alpha, Delta, Omicron, then Omicron BA.5. Currently, BA.5 has become a minority variant, with several others growing in prevalence. There is no single variant that dominates, and none are clearly growing faster than others. Importantly, new variants are arising more quickly that our collective immune system can keep up with them, and re-infections are now common. Happily, none of these new variants appear to be very pathogenic, and are not increasing the number of deaths, perhaps because natural immunity against COVID is becoming common.
In light of all this, I’m becoming more convinced that COVID is now endemic, and we won’t get rid of it. Viruses have a tendency to become more infectious and less pathogenic (disease causing) over time, and we’ve certainly seen that happen during COVID. New COVID variants will likely continue this trend. So we most likely will never return to the days when there are very large numbers of COVID hospitalizations and deaths.
Fewer posts from me: During most of the pandemic, I posted every week. In the last few months, I’ve been posting only every 3 weeks or so. Because I believe COVID is now endemic, and most are only minimally concerned, I will probably be posting even less now, only when there is some significant COVID news.
Don’t fear, but be smart,