What will endemic COVID-19 look like? Not like the flu, more like a cold, SoCal doctor says

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The COVID-19 case rate across the U.S. is steadily falling, down by nearly 36 percent in the last week, and experts say we are past the peak of the omicron variant. Could COVID-19 now enter an endemic phase?

Eyewitness News spoke with a Southern California doctor for insight, as California plans for what the end of the coronavirus pandemic might look like.

Statewide, COVID-19 Cases and hospitalizations continue downward giving Gov. Gavin Newsom and his public health team an opportunity to draft an endemic plan.

"How we live with the virus, how we address and live with the surges, what we've learned, what protocols we encouraged to be in place," Newsom said.

The plan, to be released in the next two weeks, should detail what our post-pandemic lives will look like.

"I think it's really important for public health agencies, and leaders to prepare for different possibilities," said Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, Co-Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai.

Ben-Aderet said while some experts like to think COVID-19's end game will look like the seasonal, predictable flu, the coronavirus can be random, similar to another virus we live with.

"Thinking like the common cold, which really is something that we deal with all the time at a steady rate, that would be an endemic disease," he said. "I think the hope among public health experts is that we are headed towards an endemic state where we will no longer have rapid spread of COVID. We will have, I think at best, a low-level of COVID presence throughout the community that we can deal with."



Ben-Aderet added that every notorious pathogen, including the Spanish flu, has taken different paths to become endemic. But, the most effective ways to deal with them have not changed.

"It's listening to our public health agencies. You know, masking when it's necessary, getting vaccinated as soon as possible, getting boosted," said Ben-Aderet.

Experts remind everyone that vaccination not only protects people from serious illness, but it also helps slow the spread, which slows mutations. A key component to a successful exit plan.

"There probably never has been such a huge number of people all vaccinated for the same disease all at once in human history. So there really has never been such a well-studied vaccine," Ben-Aderet said.
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