Analysis: As COVID-19 deaths continue to trend down, can we say the pandemic is finally over?

by Trinity Cardinal

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 


Reported deaths from COVID-19 are at the lowest level recorded over the last two years, with the fewest cases in five months since the beginning of the pandemic. While some areas are seeing both increasing case counts and death rates, in many parts of the world infections and deaths are decreasing with illness being less severe. Experts believe this spike in cases is from a sub-variant of Omicron named BA.2.12, which like many viral variants, maybe more transmissible, but less deadly. 

In the United States, death rates drop by 23 percent, while case rates increased by 2 percent. Statistics show that positive cases are not correlated with severe illness or hospitalizations. According to data from the CDC, the current seven-day average for case counts is 53,133, the daily average for deaths is 318, and the total hospitalizations are about 11,000. However, hospitalizations are not categorized by the reason for admission, meaning a COVID-19 diagnosis could be an incidental finding. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, claimed that this data suggests the country is transitioning out of the pandemic phase. In an interview with The Washington Post, Dr. Fauci explained “We are now transitioning — not there yet, but transitioning — to more of an endemicity, where the level of infection is low enough that people are starting to learn how to live with the virus, still protecting themselves by vaccination, by the availability of antivirals, by testing.” 

Fauci quickly back-peddled after facing criticism for this comment, noting that the world is still facing a pandemic, and clarifying that the United States is just no longer on the “full-blown” phase of COVID,  being more predictable and controlled.  While Fauci may have appeased some critics by reeling back his hopeful outlook, for many Americans, his flip-flopping on important information has created an overall distrust in public health agencies. Contradictory communication about the effectiveness of masks and his admission that his metrics for herd immunity were based on his own opinion, not science,  are among the issues fueling citizens in ‘America’s top doctor.”

This past March, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said that COVID-19 is most likely here to stay and “that this is probably going to be a seasonal virus.” We now know that the majority of Americans have some level of protection whether through natural immunity from infection or through vaccination. The agency continues to monitor COVID-19-related data as well as encourage vaccine acquired immunity over natural immunity. The agency just celebrated 500 days since the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine and that 100 million booster doses have been administered. They also recommend getting a second booster if eligible and encourage parents to vaccinate their children. 

While the CDC is sticking to their guns with its vaccine push, the agency recently announced that 60 percent of the population has natural immunity and 75 percent of children have some level of natural immunity. When combined with vaccine immunity, about 95 percent of the nation likely has some level of immunity. Medical officials have seemed largely dismissive of these statics in their continued pursuit of mass vaccination, which begs the question: what data will suffice in making them feel comfortable enough to acknowledge an end of the pandemic?

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