After two years of COVID, what’s ahead? - Rick L. Stevens

Talking Trends
3 min readMay 31, 2022

After two years of battling COVID-19, a few things are certain: vaccines really do work and wearing masks and social distancing have helped stop its spread. As the door to our new normalcy starts to crack open, let’s shed some light on what’s ahead.

Make no mistake — COVID is here to stay, but experts say that COVID will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime this year, due largely to rising global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral COVID pills that could become more widespread later this year.

Instead, the virus will likely become “endemic,” and will eventually fade in severity and become part of the background of regular, everyday life, much like the flu. Various strains of the influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more, from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to the swine flu pandemic of 2009.

COVID will remain dangerous once the pandemic ends just like the flu, which kills on average more than 53,000 people each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). More than 900,000 people in the United States have died from COVID to date. In Missouri, on average 51 people have died from COVID each day over the past two years.

The good news is that once endemic, COVID won’t dictate daily life and decision-making as much. Endemic illnesses are always circulating throughout parts of the world but tend to cause milder illness because more people have immunity from past infection and vaccination. You might get a cough or runny nose, but if you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations, you’ll be protected enough to prevent severe illness or hospitalization.

Much like other respiratory viruses, there will be times of year when COVID infections peak — most likely the colder fall and winter months, meaning COVID and flu seasons could regularly coincide moving forward.

There’s also a chance we all might need to get regular COVID boosters going forward, with some experts saying that COVID vaccines could become an annual occurrence, similar to the flu shot. And that might be a good thing — if new COVID variants keep popping up, each year’s boost can be specifically designed to fight whichever variant is dominant at the time. But convincing people to follow through remains the challenge. It’s hard enough to convince people to get their annual flu shots.

During the last flu season before COVID, only 48% of American adults got a flu vaccine according to the CDC. Currently only 65% of Americans have received full dosage of the COVID vaccine, and only 55% of Missourians are fully vaccinated against the virus.

With all this in mind, as we look forward to spring, it’s important to continue practicing prevention measures that science has proven work — vaccinating, wearing a mask in public indoor settings, staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands frequently.

My hope is that everyone takes a little bit more personal responsibility to continue to do these things that we know work — the lives of family, friends, neighbors and the community at large are all depending on it.

Until next time, best wishes for your good health!

Rick L. Stevens, FACHE,
Christian Hospital President.

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