COVID-19 on its way to endemic status, Arizona health expert says

Feb 28, 2022, 2:00 PM

PHOENIX – COVID-19 is well on its way from pandemic to endemic status, according to one Arizona public health expert.

“I think we’re right at that transition threshold right now,” Will Humble, director of the Arizona Public Health Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Monday.

Humble, a former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said a disease goes from pandemic to endemic “when it becomes something that is no longer a public health emergency.”

He said the highly contagious omicron variant ended up providing immunity to most people who didn’t already have protection.

“That omicron spike was just off the charts,” he said. “And what that reflected is the virus was infecting all the people that wouldn’t get vaccinated, and now they’ve got both T cells and antibodies in place.”

Humble said that means future cases are less likely than before to result in serious illness.

“Endemic means that it’s still going to bubble around but not translate the way it has the past two years into deaths and hospitalizations nearly to the same extent,” he said.

“Of course, there will still be bad outcomes and there’s still plenty of people in the hospital right now with either delta or omicron infections who aren’t going to make it. So there’s going be a lot of deaths yet.”

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its COVID-19 guidelines for what amounts to about 70% of the nation’s population.

Healthy Americans in counties deemed to have low or medium community COVID levels are now safe to be indoors in public without wearing face masks, per a new classification system the CDC unveiled Friday.

The system is based primarily on the impact the coronavirus is having on area hospitals.

Coconino, Maricopa, Santa Cruz and Yavapai counties currently fall into the medium range, while Arizona’s 11 other counties are in the high range. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its suburbs, is home to over 60% of the state’s population.

Humble said he thinks the new CDC approach makes sense.

“My attitude has been from the beginning that you should use evidence on the way up to decide things, you should use evidence in the middle, and you should use evidence when you’re at the end,” he said.

“And that’s where we are — not ‘end end,’ but we’re transitioning to endemic, and that means we should be using evidence to drive decision making, and I support the CDC metrics.”

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COVID-19 on its way to endemic status, Arizona health expert says