brown on green, A Regular column about finances
Pandemic to Endemic?
The United States, along with the rest of the world, has dealt with COVID-19 for almost two years. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 950,000 Americans have died during the pandemic. Along the way several variants have been designated with Greek alphabet names, although three have dominated the news. Alpha was the original virus. Delta soon proved to be more transmissible, and currently, Omicron is the dominant strain.
Some quick definitions are helpful. A pandemic is a disease that spreads across multiple countries and affects many people. An epidemic describes a sudden increase in disease cases in a specific area. An endemic is an outbreak consistently present but limited to a particular region. This makes the spread of disease and rates of transmission more predictable. Malaria, for example, is endemic in many tropical countries and regions.
Many news organizations have released articles about the effect the Omicron variant is having on COVID. Yahoo Finance, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the British newspaper The Daily Mail all published articles describing the most recent research and trends. Based on early studies in South Africa and Great Britain, where the variant first spread in Europe, researchers reached two conclusions: 1) the Omicron variant is much more transmissible than previous strains of COVID, but 2) it is also less deadly than other forms of the disease.
The current CDC charts bear this out. In terms of infections, the first COVID-19 peak was reached in January 2021, with a seven-day moving average of 246,000 infections per day. It peaked again with the Delta variant in September 2021 at 162,000, but in early January 2022, the infection rate has reached its highest level, with 806,801 cases in a single day. However, the death rates accompanying these peaks are dramatically different. Deaths peaked in May 2020 at 2,209; January 2021 at 3,385; and Delta peaked in September 2021 with 1,899. However, in January 2022, deaths from the Delta variant peaked at 2,162, despite a caseload four times those of previous surges.
Many researchers believe the true death rate of Omicron is approaching the same level as seasonal flu. Most people wonder when COVID will “go away.” The short answer is COVID may never go away but become part of our lives much like seasonal flu and other diseases we encounter all the time. Is the flu deadly? Yes! the flu kills between 12,000 and 52,000 people every year, according to the CDC.
However, if COVID is transitioning from pandemic to endemic, we can deal with it just like we handle other illnesses we face. Of course, we should still be cautious. And those who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of this virus should remain extremely vigilant. But if these trends continue to hold true, it may be time to move on with our lives—an end to the pandemic.
About the Columnist: David Brown is director of Free Will Baptist Foundation. To learn more about the grants program, visit www.fwbgifts.org.