News that fewer COVID-19 cases are showing up in our community was welcomed this week. That doesn’t mean that we can all stop washing our hands and are now free to ignore common-sense safety measures.
The virus that causes COVID-19 has mutated several times. On Nov. 26, 2021, the World Health Organization named the Omicron variant that quickly spread around the world and caused a spike in cases before, apparently just as quickly, declining.
Evidence indicated that Omicron was more infectious than Delta but that people who get COVID-19 from this variant generally have less severe symptoms. That is especially true, on average, for fully vaccinated individuals and even more so for those who also got a booster.
The best-case scenario for the rest of 2022 would be if the Omicron variant remains dominant and a new, deadlier variant does not emerge.
There is no exact moment when a pandemic can be declared “over” or a transition from pandemic to endemic can be pinpointed. Whenever we reach that state, COVID-19 will still pose a risk. The difference will be that it can be monitored and predicted more accurately and limited with vaccines, treatments, and good personal/workforce practices.
Viruses will always be with us. Information that is accurate today can change as research teaches us more or as another threat arises. With COVID-19, we are approaching 6 million deaths worldwide; closer to home, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports the pandemic has claimed 7,975 lives statewide. Even at this recent, welcome, slower rate, it won’t be long before that number tops 8,000 and our governor will again lower flags to half staff.
County Health Director Karen Winkelman said Wednesday, “Right now, I feel like we’ve kind of shying away from the reactive and going towards the proactive again, which is a much more comfortable situation. We had a lot of lessons learned through all of this.”
Keep washing your hands, stay home if you’re sick, get tested if you need to, and trust the advice of doctors and health-care experts over the advice of podcasters, bloggers, social media and infomercials. When you do your own research, keep in mind that reliable information has been verified by health experts; information that’s been red-flagged by health experts as unsafe or unreliable cannot be trusted.