‘Endemic’ is not an exit, says epidemiologist

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Masks are coming off, mandates are easing, and people are beginning to mingle more freely. Spring is just around the corner.

Despite the positive signs, experts caution that declaring an end to the pandemic remains an iffy proposition, given the proven ability of SARS-CoV-2 to surprise. Still, society is closer than ever to calling COVID endemic, when the combination of natural infection and vaccination will provide enough protection that the virus becomes part of the public health landscape along with many other ailments — some deadly, like tuberculosis and measles, and others less so, like the common cold. Harvard’s William Hanage, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, outlines what an endemic SARS-CoV-2 might look like.

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