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At times it feels like the pandemic is never-ending and that COVID will be around forever, but all things do end—including this. But when? That's the key question everyone is asking and there's no single right answer. Experts are doing their best to give us an end date, but with Omicron spreading and not enough people around the world vaccinated yet, it's a tough call. That said, there is hope and Eat This, Not That! Health talked with Dr. Saskia Popescu PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, infectious disease epidemiologist and infection preventionist with a focus on hospital bio-preparedness who is nationally recognized for her work in infection prevention and enhancing hospital response to infectious diseases events, who gives her thoughts on when things will get back to normal. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
When Will This Pandemic End?
Dr. Popescus says, " We are still learning about this new variant, and we are awaiting more information from the scientific community as well as governing health organizations. But what we do know, is that pandemics do end. While I can't give you an exact date, the more we do to take preventative measures to protect ourselves and others, like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and social distancing, the closer we get to 'normal' life."
What Needs to Happen in Order for the Pandemic to End?
"Ending a pandemic requires us to reduce community transmission to a possible endemic state, but also really focus on reducing overall cases, global vaccine distribution and uptake, but also lessening the burden of the disease on healthcare and public health infrastructures," explains Dr. Popescus.
Will We Have to Learn to Live with COVID?
According to Dr. Popescus. "COVID-19 won't completely go away, so we will have to learn to live with the virus. Thankfully the COVID-19 vaccine is already a great defense and offers strong protection from serious illness. We've learned to live with other diseases though and it often requires continued vigilance and investing in infection prevention and infection control, which helps us beyond COVID."
What Can People Do to Help End the Pandemic?
Dr. Popescus states, "Prevention is one of the strongest defenses we have. Maintaining regular healthy habits, such as a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated and maintaining a regular sleep schedule are important, in addition to getting the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, wearing a mask when in public and social distancing. Disinfecting high-touch surfaces with an EPA-approved disinfectant to kill COVID-19, such as Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, can also help support prevention, especially if you have members of the household leaving frequently for work or school, or who have been infected by COVID-19."
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Why We're Still in the Pandemic Three Years Later
"We've seen the pandemic continue for many reasons – global vaccine and public health inequity, relaxation of restrictions and the belief that COVID is 'over,' but also a patchwork of responses across countries and regions," Dr. Popescus explains. "Moreover, we've had novel variants that increase the spread – these occur where the virus can spread, so now more than ever we should focus on addressing COVID globally and not just in a region."
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When Will We Be Able to Stop Wearing Masks and Social Distancing?
Dr. Popescus says, "The World Health Organization (WHO) will declare the end of the pandemic when enough countries have COVID cases under control and hospitalizations and death rates due to the virus are at an all-time low. Once that happens, we can entertain the idea of cutting back on masking and social distancing. Even when this occurs, the virus will still be amongst us, so it is important to continue to take preventative measures."
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How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.