So Many Have Caught Omicron, Could It Signal End of Pandemic?

Some health experts say we could be on the verge of a "new phase" in the pandemic, but it's too soon to drop our guard

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With omicron cases trending downward and so many having caught COVID-19, could that mean the end of the pandemic is near? 

A regional director with the World Health Organization released a statement Monday saying we could be “entering a new phase in the pandemic with plausible hope for stabilization” but also that it’s "too early to drop our guard." 

Robert Schooley, a professor of medicine at UC San Diego, said that, while the future is uncertain, we could see "a break" in the pandemic as more people have higher levels of antibodies after omicron’s surge. 

“The larger the population with immunity … the longer the break might be and more effective the break might be,” Schooley said. 

Schooley explained that we could see fewer large surges and surges could be further apart. However, he said, the community needs to remain vigilant, keeping up with vaccines and boosters since more variants might emerge. 

“The virus didn’t get to everybody," Schooley said. "We still have 150 people in the hospital, and most of them weren’t vaccinated. And so the virus is still getting to them for the first time and a lot of people are still like that.” 

Schooley said that another challenge is that our immunity against coronavirus is relatively fleeting: as the virus continues to evolve, we will continue to need vaccines. He said, however, that he is hopeful for a period of stabilization within the pandemic so that health care systems can address other diseases that also need attention. 

“We have lost some ground in taking care of people with malaria, taking care of people with HIV, taking care of people with tuberculosis," Schooley said. "Because those are chronic diseases that require ongoing attention." 

Pandemic-fatigued San Diegans are also hopeful for a period of stabilization. 

“I’m ready to get back to normal … like true normal,” said Alfie Soyosa, who said that his entire family caught omicron and has since recovered. 

Masarah Alfaih, a travel nurse, has seen first-hand the impact of the most recent surge.

“People dying from COVID alone … I’ve seen extreme staffing shortages,” Alfaih said. 

Alfaih family also recently recovered from omicron. 

“We were all OK, knock on wood, so I hope it’s like that for other people as well," Alfaih said.

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