Our life, post-Covid pandemic, may include vaccinations and masks. It may also become as routine as living with the flu.
Health officials say we’re early in the process of switching from Covid pandemic mode to endemic, a situation that can be managed without major restrictions.
“It’s hard to predict whether we will all be wearing a mask a year from now,” says Spokane Regional Health Officer Francisco Velazquez, “but we anticipate, just based on all the communicable diseases, that some level of protection will be required until this is endemic and managed and this is going to take awhile.”
“The question, of course, is how contagious and how deadly will the next variant that emerges become,” says Steven Nemerson, the chief clinical officer at St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Boise.
He says medical history suggests there will be peaks in the virus’s severity, like the one we’re experiencing now, and valleys, such as the one that preceded this surge. He doesn’t think Covid and its variants are going away, but he’s optimistic that they can eventually be controlled and managed.
“More than likely we will see some level of immunization into the future,” Velazquez says. “Since we do know that we can co-administer (a practice the CDC has endorsed), it may very well be that you get your flu shot and your Covid shot, if there is such a thing as we go forward. I do know that some companies are working on testing for both.”
Hoping that Covid will disappear altogether is unrealistic, says Christine Hahn, the medical director for the Idaho Division of Public Health. She says that lesson became clear with the 1918 strain of influenza that spread globally.
“A descendent of that virus is still with us,” she says, more than 100 years after it killed an estimated 50 million people. “It is one of the influenza strains that circulates to this day,” Hahn said. “That virus never went away and it is very possible that we’ll end up in the same position with the coronavirus.”
Velazquez says, in a post-Covid world, may people may choose to include masking as a regular practice, something that would also help to prevent the spread of flu and other communicable respiratory diseases.