Is the pandemic close to endemic phase?

Posted at 9:27 PM, Feb 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 23:15:26-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va - The CDC may soon update mask guidelines in the coming weeks, as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths drop.

Doctor Rochelle Walensky says the CDC is focusing more on COVID hospitalizations as the guide to whether public health measures should be lifted. Walensky tells us the CDC is reviewing its mask guidance and may soon issue an update.

Medical experts believe we're getting close to entering the "endemic" phase of COVID-19 where the virus becomes a part of everyday life.

"I think we have to move from pandemic stages to the endemic stage. I think we’re not going to see COVID ever go away. It’s going to be around. How do we have therapeutics that prevent us from dying from it," Dr. Ryan Light with Greenbrier Family Medicine said.

New COVID cases dropped 35 percent in the last week in the Commonwealth with 71 percent of Virginians fully vaccinated.

"I think the idea is to move away from mandates, making things law in certain places and allow individuals to choose if they want to wear a mask," Dr. Parham
Jaberi with the Virginia Department of Health tells News 3's Leondra Head.

Hampton Roads residents we spoke to say they are looking forward to a return to a normal life.

"Looking forward to normalcy. Ready to get back out and mingle among folks end enjoy being outside,"Alex Jacobs, a Hampton Roads resident said.

Some say they will still have their guard up regardless of whether the CDC changes its mask guidelines.

"I think people still need to be vigilant especially if there is another peak or another variant," one Hampton Roads resident said.

As of February 20, there are 1,270 Virginians hospitalized due to COVID-19. That number is down from January’s COVID peak.

"We are seeing the hospitalizations dramatically reduce but we’re still not at low pre-pandemic levels. Whether you look at hospitalizations percent positivity of tests, the numbers are headed in the right," Dr. Jaberi said.

For now, there are no changes to the CDC's recommendations. Everyone should wear a mask in indoor public spaces in areas with high transmission regardless of vaccination status.