Lost in the wake of world events that include an unfathomable war in Ukraine, global supply chain issues that only seem to worsen and galloping inflation on the home front is the fact that the pandemic is entering its third year. You remember the pandemic, don’t you? Masks, vaccines, social distancing?

At least when it comes to the global health crisis, there is good news to report.

In the United States and in many parts of the world, COVID-19 cases and deaths are in sustained decline. More and more people are essentially immune to the virus either because of remarkably effective vaccines or because they already have been infected with the virus. Politicians and even many health experts have decided we don’t need to wear a mask every time we leave the house.

Does that mean we have nothing to worry about from SARS-CoV-2? Not exactly.

A committee within the World Health Organization meets every three months to read the data and decide, officially, whether the health crisis that has enveloped the world since March 2020 still merits the term “pandemic.” Essentially, these experts are discerning whether COVID-19 infections have become predictable and no longer require society-wide interventions. Some suggest we may still be years away from the day when most scientists agree our pandemic has become endemic and just another manageable threat in the environment.

Historian John M. Barry has an even simpler way to look at it. Barry, who wrote “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” about the 1918 pandemic, told Scientific American last week that pandemics are really over when we grow tired of them. They end “when people stop paying attention to them,” he told the magazine.

Many of us have clearly reached that point. It’s obvious at your favorite Coastside coffee shop and on Highway 1, where traffic has reached pre-pandemic levels. Most of us are living our lives more or less the way we did in The Great Before.

As you make tentative strides back into civilization, some facts might surprise you. As of last week, 2,904 Californians were testing positive for COVID-19 every day. More than 2,100 people were sick enough to be hospitalized in our state due to the virus. As of Thursday, 87,045 people in California had died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 98 Californians were still dying every day as a result. In one ominous sign, on Thursday, Santa Clara County’s top health officials noted an uptick in the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron, saying it was detected in wastewater in the northern areas of the county. The variant has become a problem in places like the United Kingdom, but, so far, case numbers remain flat or in decline in the county to our south.

Meanwhile, the situation has worsened in some places, including China, which is once again shuttering cities and forcing people into isolation. Experts say we could still face variants that are bad or even worse than what we’ve been through.

You may feel powerless to help the besieged people of Ukraine or to bring down the price of gas at the pump, but there are things you can do to move us toward endemic and away from pandemic. California health experts still strongly recommend you wear a mask in most indoor situations. Get tested if you get sick. Avoid crowded venues and continue to give others some space. And if you are still wondering about the effectiveness of vaccination, consider that state health officials say unvaccinated people are 7.3 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated and boosted people.

Clay Lambert is the editorial director for Coastside News Group. After years working at regional daily newspapers, he began as editor of the Half Moon Bay Review in 2004.

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(1) comment

Scott McVicker

The declared pandemic is ending. Those who crave control over every aspect of your life are sorely disappointed. They have little time to act...to cement their control over you. No jab, no job. No jab, no school. And it gets worse. Have a listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-64-MWcQe9M

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