What will the pandemic look like in 2022? – Five questions to think about

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By Crystal Bruce, Health Communications Specialist IV

The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving an indelible mark here and across the globe. More than 847,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, and health experts forecast that we will hit 1,000,000 deaths more quickly than previously expected. But it’s hard to predict the future. Even when armed with the best models, it’s impossible to forecast the course of the pandemic with accuracy and consistency.

COVID-19 will be one of the defining events of our time; so what could 2022 bring? Let’s break it down:

  • What will happen with the virus? –With five coronavirus variants in less than two years, will we get back to ‘normal’ in 2022? While it’s possible that COVID-19 could shift from pandemic to endemic at some point this year, it will be a bumpy road. Most experts agree that COVID will eventually become a seasonal virus that will likely lead to cold-like and other minor illnesses, but we are not there yet. And with a virus that mutates so quickly, it’s uncertain when this pandemic will become more like the seasonal flu. 
  • Will COVID-19 cases and deaths go down? – What started with one case in 2019 has led to 5 million deaths worldwide. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still rising, adding to the stress on already understaffed and overwhelmed hospital systems. In order for the pandemic to reach the endemic stage, some experts say we need to go below 100 deaths a day. The current daily average is about 1,400 deaths, and this is very likely to increase for now, given the current levels of hospitalizations.
  • Will we need more boosters or treatments? – Whether or not we’ll need additional COVID-19 boosters in 2022 (and beyond) depends on how long that protection lasts and how well we’re protected against any new variants. Some experts say that COVID-19 vaccines could become an annual occurrence, similar to your flu shot. For those 12 and older who become infected with mild or moderate COVID symptoms, there are two new antiviral pills. These treatments can reduce hospitalizations due to COVID for those who are eligible. While they are still in short supply, antivirals could become a game changer in 2022.
  • How long will we need to wear masks? – Proper masking works, but many people have already abandoned the prevention practices we came to rely on during 2021. If the virus does become more seasonal, wearing a mask on public transit and indoors during COVID season could become the norm.  Other familiar prevention strategies, such as regularly washing your hands and social distancing when you have active COVID-19 or flu symptoms, may become more common.  
  • What can we do in 2022 to help manage the pandemic? – In order to make serious headway in living with COVID-19, health experts say there are two areas to focus on:

As we move into 2022, there are still reasons to be optimistic. We have new treatments to save the lives of those who test positive, hundreds of millions of Americans are vaccinated, and we at Karna continue to advance the science about the pandemic. All of this means that we are much closer to moving beyond COVID. So, my New Year’s hope is that a year from now, we will look back and see 2022 as the year we really did get back to normal, even if that normal is a little different than what it was before.

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