Ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses similar to COVID-19 which became pandemic. Original image sourced from US Government department: Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under US law this image is copyright free, please credit the government department whenever you can”.

Whenever I hear/read someone say “post-pandemic,” I resist the very strong urge to say, “We’re still in a pandemic; there’s no post about it!”

Clearly, I’m in the minority in thinking the pandemic is still happening. The world is increasingly ready to move on, which is on top of my mind because my employer sent an email today about COVID-19 protocols for the coming semester, and they are… light.

Frankly, I had been expecting this level of COVID precautions, I’m not foolish! When I’m out and about I’m seeing fewer and fewer people who are masked (correctly or incorrectly!). Even when I visit the office I’m one of the few (and sometimes the only person) still masking indoors (I use these masks, so I’m ok with folks not masking… though I marvel at how everyone has vastly different risk assessments). The writing has been on the wall for a while, but it did get me thinking: when does a pandemic end?

Bob Grant, the editor-in-chief of The Scientist, had the same question and used it to pen an editorial wondering if there would be an exact end to the Pandemic. An email from the World Health Organization answered the question quite succinctly:

“A pandemic is a characterization of a disease in view of its geographical spread,” one of its press officers wrote to me this week. “The term carries no recognition under international law and there is no general, formal mechanism for declaring the beginning or end of a pandemic.” 

Editorial: When Will This Pandemic Officially End? – Bob Grant

Writing in the Lancet, Christopher J L Murray defines the pandemic as ” the extraordinary societal efforts over the past 2 years to respond to a new pathogen that have changed how individuals live their lives and how policy responses have developed in governments around the world” and concludes:

The era of extraordinary measures by government and societies to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission will be over. After the omicron wave, COVID-19 will return but the pandemic will not.

COVID-19 will continue but the end of the pandemic is near – Christopher J L Murray

Good thing we have a robust healthcare system

As the world decides COVID is just a thing we can live with our household has also been opening up a little bit. We’ve had a babysitter come and watch the boys, attended several family events (mostly outdoors), and even had some folks over to the house (and I didn’t make everyone take a COVID rapid test, even though I wanted to!).

Has it been nice? Of course! And I don’t want to wear a mask forever, though I do think it is a pretty easy thing to do to avoid getting sick (I’m pretty sure I’ll be wearing a mask from now on when riding in public transportation or on a plane!). That being said, I’m still not ready to toss my mask into the ocean and start licking lampposts… but the boys will be starting a few days in preschool in September. We’ll be tossing them into that roiling Petri dish and we’ll see what emerges!

Though, by that time they will be fully vaccinated which will make me feel much better.

Anyway, it seems like everyone can just decide if the pandemic is over for them or not. Just like our governmental and public institutions. Just figure it out yourselves, people. It is the American way!

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