End of COVID-19? Still seems like a far-fetched dream

Rachel Yim, Senior Reporter

“When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?” Most people probably have asked this question at least once during this pandemic. After a year and a half since the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., the answer to this question, however, still doesn’t exist.

When the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines came out, many might have thought we are nearing the end of the pandemic. The vaccines indeed helped bring down the daily COVID-19 cases across the country.

Not long after the vaccines were widely distributed, different types of variants started to emerge and spread. Viruses are known to constantly change through mutations. The development of variants of COVID-19 is not an exception.

Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta as variants of concern, while Eta, Iota, Kappa, None and Mu are classified as variants of interest. Out of the variants listed, the Delta variant has been the most contagious and common form of COVID-19.

First identified in India, the Delta variant is known to be more transmissible and virulent than the other known variants. According to the CDC website, the Delta variant spreads more easily than previous variants and may cause more than twice as many infections.

While the mandate of vaccinations for COVID-19 has been one of the most controversial topics these days, the fact that all FDA-approved vaccines that have been tested are effective and safe against the virus including the Delta variant remains true.

“It is striking to note that 99% of COVID-19 deaths are now occurring in unvaccinated people, when most adults in the USA have been vaccinated,” Stuart Ray, M.D., vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said. “The more people who are unvaccinated and infected, the more chances there are for mutations to occur.”

With the Delta variant of COVID-19 fueling a new surge in the cases in the U.S., the federal health agency issued revised guidance on July 27th, recommending wearing masks indoors in areas of high rates of COVID-19 transmission, regardless of vaccination status.

It seems that mask mandate laws were lifted and have not been reinforced since the emergence of the Delta variant that led to another surge in U.S. COVID-19 cases. Weak mask mandates across the country have led many people to refuse to wear masks and to receive the vaccines.

According to AARP, to date, 29 states that had orders broadly requiring residents to wear masks in public have lifted them. Two states that previously lifted mandates, Louisiana and Oregon, have reimposed them amid the Delta spike. Eleven states have not imposed mandates at any point during the pandemic.

As long as weak public health policies continue, the end of the pandemic era is not clear.

Vaccines and masks are effective ways to fight against COVID-19 with its new variants. It’s important to always keep in mind that we’re going through the pandemic together and that we should be considerate of others whatever we do.