The world is quickly approaching “year three” of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens have dealt with losing family members, children who’ve missed out on graduations as well as other school activities that were canceled due to the pandemic, and lockdowns caused business closures and job loss across the world.
The last three years have been nothing less than a rollercoaster ride, but, earlier this week, the CEO of Moderna told CNBC anchors that it is now “reasonable” to believe that the pandemic is soon to become an endemic. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, the embattled White House Medical Adviser, said that he believed the world is about to see the end of the “full blown” pandemic stage of the virus’ progression.
Moderna CRO Stephane Bancel told CNBC: “There’s an eighty percent chance that as omicron evolves or SarsCov-2 virus evolves, we are going to see less and less virulent viruses.”
Bancel’s statement fits the accepted definition of “endemic” – meaning the virus evolves to a point where it’s both not as lethal nor as transmissible. After three years of major life changes, many citizens worldwide are waiting with anticipation in the hopes the head of Moderna is correct.
At the same time, Bancel did offer a stern warning: “there’s another twenty percent scenario where we see a next mutation, which is more virulent than omicron.” In other words, while omicron was highly transmissible but typically less severe than previous variants, Bancel reminds us that it is possible the next mutation of the SarsCov-2 virus could be more deadly.
The World Health Organization released information stating that in the last week, 15.47 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported. Of that number, 73,162 deaths resulted.
Typically, most viruses will evolve the way omicron has – each new variant is a little less virulent, but it may be more transmissible. This happened with the evolution between the delta variant of COVID-19, which was not only transmissible but proved to be more deadly. Omicron is contagious, more-so than delta; yet, most of those with omicron had fairly mild symptoms.
Even though both Bancel and Dr. Anthony Fauci have said this week that we may be approaching the endemic stage of COVID-19, the World Health Organization head warns that the threat of the virus is “nowhere near over.” He warned that there will likely be more variants after omicron.
Bloomberg echoed this sentiment earlier in February, saying “We’ll be grappling with Covid-related fallout as long as the specter of new variants loom.”
Last month, scientists across the globe – including at the CDC – warned that the omicron variant appeared to have mutated into a less detectable form; however, they said that the mutation itself did not warrant naming a new variant (experts said that the mutation was merely a “genetic glitch”).
Bloomberg said definitively that “there will be more” variants, and they echoed the sentiments of the WHO head – any new variant could prove to be much more deadly than omicron. According to Yale School of Medicine epidemiology professor Akiko Iwasaki, “The virus keeps raising the bar for us every few months . . .It seems like we are constatly trying to catch up with the virus.”
While people are yearning for an end to the pandemic, the scientific community is advising a bit of careful caution. Letting down our proverbial guard could prove dangerous should a more dangerous strain manifest itself.
Yet, people are growing weary of masking and mandates. The Freedom Convoy is Canada has garnered international attention, even as far away as Australia. Parents in the United States have grown tired of their children’s mask mandates at school, and they are removing their children from public schools in droves. Students themselves have even protested the mask mandates, with students from a Chicago school walking out in protest just last week.
The good news is many anti-virulent medications are available to fight possible dangerous strains of the virus, which we didn’t have before. Is it possible we really are in the “endemic” stage of COVID-19? The world cautiously hopes this is so.