Could we be seeing the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The nation’s leading health officials said Wednesday that the U.S. is moving closer to the point that COVID-19 is no longer a “constant crisis” as more cities, businesses and sports venues began lifting pandemic restrictions around the country.
The omicron wave that hit the U.S. this winter also built up Americans’ immunity, leaving enough protection against the COVID so that future spikes will likely require much less — if any — dramatic disruption to society.
Millions of individual Americans’ immune systems now recognize the virus and are ready to fight it off if they encounter omicron or even another variant.
This fact, along with booster shots and other factors, means an estimated 73% of Americans are immune for now to omicron, according to one influential model. And that number could rise to 80% by the middle of March.
It also makes it much less likely for hospitals to be overwhelmed again.
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Even so, the virus remains dangerous and experts recommend precautions. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to ease its indoor masking guidelines next week and mandates are being lifted across the country.
“We all share the same goal – to get to a point where COVID-19 is no longer disrupting our daily lives, a time when it won’t be a constant crisis – rather something we can prevent, protect against, and treat,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
As CBN News reported earlier this month, medical experts predict the end of the omicron surge may signal the transition from a pandemic to an endemic. When a disease is endemic, it still poses health risks but is no longer as unpredictably disruptive to daily life.
With omicron waning, government and business leaders have been ahead of the CDC in ending virus measures in the last week, including ordering workers back to offices, eliminating mask mandates, and no longer requiring proof of vaccine to get into restaurants, bars, and sports and entertainment arenas. Here are three prominent examples:
- Philadelphia officials said on Wednesday the city’s vaccine mandate for restaurants was immediately lifted, though indoor mask mandates remain in place for now.
- At Disney World, vaccinated guests will no longer have to wear masks at the Florida theme park starting Thursday.
- Professional sports teams including the Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards and Capitals have stopped requiring proof of vaccine for fans.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, seated center, signs a bill that bans mask mandates in public schools in Virginia on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Mask Mandates to End in VA Public Schools Mar. 1
In Richmond, Virginia on Wednesday afternoon, new Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a bill during a public ceremony on the steps of the Capitol building that ends mask mandates in public schools in the Commonwealth and lets parents opt out of their children wearing masks.
There were hundreds of supporters in attendance to watch the bill’s signing, including school children, parents, and teachers.
“Today we are re-establishing and restoring power back to parents,” Youngkin said as applause came from students and teachers gathered around the signing table as well as students and parents in the audience. “But we are also re-establishing our expectations that we will get back to normal.”
The legislature passed the bill on Monday.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, center, poses for photos with schoolchildren and parents after signing a bill that bans mask mandates in public schools in Virginia on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Youngkin then amended it to add an emergency clause so that it could take effect before the typical July 1 enactment date for new legislation. Under the amendments added by the governor, local systems must allow students to opt-out of mask mandates beginning March 1.
Several states across the nation, including New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, have taken steps in recent days to eliminate school mask mandates as well.
As of Thursday, John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center reveals so far the U.S. has had more than 78 million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, resulting in more than 928,000 deaths.