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Opinion | When Will the Covid Pandemic End?

One way or the other — through vaccination or infection — experts say the coronavirus will eventually become endemic: Outbreaks will be rarer and smaller, and hospitalizations and deaths will decline.

Opinion Conversation
Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

How long it will take to get there, though, remains an open question. In the United States, “it’s certainly possible” some regions will be assigned endemic status in 2022, Joshua Petrie, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, told Vox.

But even then, as Katherine Eban wrote last month for The Times, the coronavirus is unlikely to disappear. “No one is trying to eradicate Covid from the planet,” Dr. Dara Kass, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center, told her. “If that was a goal, that’s not the goal right now.” Instead, she said, “we’re trying to remove it from being a guiding force in our lives.”

For some Americans, it already has been. As my colleague David Leonhardt wrote recently, the risk of Covid in some highly vaccinated communities is low enough that many vaccinated people feel comfortable living relatively unencumbered. In Seattle, the daily Covid hospitalization rate for vaccinated people has been slightly above one in one million. By comparison, the flu hospitalization rate in a typical year in the United States is more than twice as high.

“My feeling now is that we’re nearing a steady state where things might get a little better or worse, for the next few years. It’s not great, but it is what it is,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told The Washington Post. “To me, particularly once I got my booster, it prompts me to accept a bit more risk, mainly because if I’m not comfortable doing it now, I’m basically saying that I won’t do it for several years, and maybe forever.”

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