Over the past few weeks, both the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and Colorado state health officials have signaled that the COVID19 virus has transitioned from a global pandemic to a statewide endemic. What does that mean to us Coloradans? The state of Colorado is in an “endemic” as statewide COVID infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths reach a two-year low. These low levels are the direct result of greater than 75% vaccination rates (50% have received booster), increased accessibility of COVID self-testing kits, and increased community protection as the Omicron variant infection has resulted in a temporary increase in community immunity.
Community immunity is the direct result of protective antibodies in recently infected Coloradans from the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Thankfully infection with the Omicron virus variant resulted in less severe illness and deaths. But we must remain vigilant! COVID is down but not out, as reflected by the recent infection of President Obama. President Obama received both the vaccination and booster, and fortunately did not suffer the severe effects of COVID thanks to the protective effects of vaccination against severe illness and death.
We, as Black and Brown Americans, have disproportionately endured the effects of the COVID pandemic. We as Black and Brown Coloradans must remain vigilant and healthy as we embark on this next phase: the endemic. As the CDC and Governor Polis remove the previously mandated mask and social distancing of the past two pandemic years, we can safely navigate the current endemic.
The endemic signals low (not extinct) community presence of COVID-19, reminding of the possible return of the high infection rates and deaths from potentially deadlier COVID variants in the future. We must first, if not vaccinated, get fully vaccinated AND receive the booster. Secondly, if symptomatic with fever, sore throat, cough, loss of smell and taste, immediately self-quarantine AND get COVID tested at your nearest testing site for the most accurate results. Readily available certified self-testing kits available at your local pharmacy, grocery store, and place of employment are also an option but are not as accurate. Entering an endemic signals “light at the end of the tunnel”-we have returned to family gatherings, graduations, weddings, sporting events, class reunions in this endemic. Let us return to life as we knew it pre-COVID by learning how to live with COVID Spring 2022!
Contributed by Dennard Ellison, MD