Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 on it’s way to endemic

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(ABC 6 News) – It’s been over two years since scientists named COVID-19 a pandemic and as case numbers decline after the recent omicron surge, there may be a new word we have to get familiar with — endemic. The best example we have of an endemic is the flu. We can expect the flu to stick around year after year, and we’ve learned to live with it.

However, COVID-19 is still a pandemic and hasn’t become endemic yet. Case numbers still spike rapidly and unexpectedly. Once they decrease and become more predictable, COVID may become endemic.

"There is going to be a need for some sort of periodic vaccination. It’s something where we’re likely to see new variants," said Dr. Jack O’Horo, an infectious disease expert at Mayo Clinic.

O’Horo explained that we should expect some back and forth when it comes to mitigation strategies like masking. As case numbers go up in the county, masking may come back and leave again as case numbers go back down.

"Just because it’s safe to take off a mask three counties over in one setting, doesn’t mean it’s safe to do the same in this county," he said.

Experts say it is likely we’ll see new variants of COVID-19, and while some may be milder, some may also be more severe. Vaccines will play a big role in keeping case numbers at an endemic level.

People in Rochester are saying the way they think about health overall has changed.

"It starts with basic hygiene. Be cautious. Wash your hands," said Joaquin Bedolla about staying healthy.

Many are ready to adjust to endemic life.

"Hopefully if something else comes like this again we’ll be more prepared," said Kim French, passing through Rochester.

Mayo Clinic said Monday that we could reach the endemic phase and then move back into a pandemic again if we’re not careful.