Skip to main content

Are we anywhere near the end of COVID? Notable epidemiologist says, “no”

Back in the spring and early summer, the phrase “post-COVID” was getting thrown around. New case numbers in the U.S. were falling, vaccination rates were rising, and families were reconnecting, often for the first time in more than a year.

Then, the situation took a turn. The contagious Delta variant drove cases back up as vaccination rates stalled. In some parts of the country, such as Texas and Florida, we once again heard stories about overwhelmed hospitals. You may be asking, “When will this be over?”

The truth is, it’s hard to say. But one epidemiologist says we are not near the end of COVID.

“I think we’re closer to the beginning than we are to the end [of the pandemic], and that’s not because the variant that we’re looking at right now is going to last that long,” said Larry Brilliant, who was part of the World Health Organization team that helped wipe out smallpox, in an interview with CNBC.

Here’s why Brilliant and others think we still have a ways to go and why predicting the end of the pandemic is difficult.

a visualization of the covid-19 virus
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Variants and super variants

As we saw with the more transmissible Delta variant, the virus can mutate. The CDC says some variants will emerge and not change much, but others, like Delta, will spread faster and cause a rise in infections. Currently, cases from the Delta variant appear to be declining.

Brilliant told CNBC vaccines appeared to hold up against the Delta variant.  A recent Yale study also found that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines protected against variants, including Delta.

Infectious disease expert and Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman told the New York Times that Delta is “running out of people to infect.”

However, that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

“I do caution people that this is the Delta variant and we have not run out of Greek letters so there may be more to come,” Brilliant said in his CNBC interview.

For example, cases in the U.K. are rising again, and experts are calling for research into whether or not the emergence of the Delta Plus variant is more transmissible. Currently, it’s too soon to tell.

Human behavior, including vaccine hesitancy

Part of the reason it’s difficult to predict the end of the pandemic is that it depends on human behavior, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says.

It’s getting cold in the northeast, where COVID rates have been mostly low. People will move indoors and potentially travel to gather for the holidays, which could increase infection rates.

Walensky and other experts say getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent COVID-related hospitalization and death, including against the Delta variant.

However, hesitancy remains a concern. Recently, outgoing National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins told MSNBC they underestimated vaccine hesitancy and wished they “had somehow seen that coming and come up with some kind of myth-buster approach.”

According to the CDC and other experts, ways to protect yourself and others and curb the pandemic include:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Testing before and after gatherings
  • Washing your hands
  • Getting tested if you are experiencing symptoms, including a fever, cough, or breathing difficulties
  • Keeping get-togethers outdoors when possible

Vaccine access

The United States may have a ton of vaccine, but COVID-19 is a global pandemic. About 48% of the worldwide population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but less than 3% of low-income countries have received at least one dose.

“Unless we vaccinate everyone in 200 plus countries, there will still be new variants,” Brilliant told CNBC.

He also predicted COVID-19 would be here forever, just like the flu.

a woman receiving her covid-19 vaccine

Waning immunity

New research shows that the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness wanes after six months. Recently, the CDC approved booster shots for select groups of people six months after they had received their Pfizer vaccine. These groups include:

  • All individuals 65 and older
  • People 18 and over who work in specific settings, such as hospitals
  • People 18 and over with certain underlying conditions, including pregnancy

The FDA has also unanimously approved Moderna COVID-19 boosters to people 65 and up and other adults who work in certain settings or have specific conditions.

The hope is boosters will mitigate the effects of waning immunity, though it’s something that health officials will need to continuously monitor.

Brilliant stressed to CNBC that people 65 and over who were vaccinated more than six months ago should not hesitate to get their booster.

“It is this category of people that we’ve seen create multiple mutations when the virus goes through their body,” he said.

One epidemiologist says we are not near the end of COVID. It’s hard to predict a definitive end date for the pandemic. Human behavior, such as masking in high-risk settings, vaccine hesitancy, and vaccine access, will all play a role. Though the Delta surge from the summer currently appears to be tapering, new variants could emerge, and factors like holiday travel could also cause a spike in cases. Ultimately, experts say vaccination is the best way to prevent hospitalization and death, even if breakthrough infections occur. There’s also a call to monitor waning immunity, and some individuals can receive booster shots. If you have concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, booster shots, or what is safe and what isn’t, it’s best to speak with a healthcare provider.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

Editors' Recommendations

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
Incontinence is not the end and you are not alone
usda dietary guidelines grandparents grandchild eating

Millions of people suffer illness and injuries which result in temporary or permanent incontinence issues. This can be a struggle for the patients and their families but, fortunately, there are many products available to make the transition and recovery easier. Waterproof mattress protectors are easy to find and common. But, less common are some other products that are mentioned here that will, hopefully, help to acknowledge how normal a problem incontinence is and that no one who suffers from it should ever be ashamed.

But, sometimes you might not need so many liners. For instance, if you have a relative visiting for a single night. In that case, you can purchase a single liner.

Read more
Baby socks and leggings for infants and roaming toddlers
brain damaging habits man baby multitasking

The first thing you want to do when you see a pair of baby feet isn’t cover them. You want to give them a squeeze, or (for some reason) threaten to “eat them up.” (Yeah, we all do that.) But the chances are anyone with a newborn needs to cover those feet, and tiny socks go missing. So while you may want to admire them during those precious years when feet are actually adorable, it’s a good idea to stock up on things like these five value packs of little socks to keep baby feet snug and warm.

If it's easy to lose socks as a grown-up, think how easy it is to lose those adorable, tiny baby socks. Ask any mom, dad, auntie, uncle, or caregiver: baby-sized socks are insanely easy to misplace—in the laundry, underneath the changing table, somewhere in the park after a diaper-changing fiasco, etc. Keeping a steady supply on hand is easy with value packs like these. Bonus points, they have little touches you might think of, like a soft terry loop interior or padded tabs, so your waddling little one will be comfortable as they learn to pad, and tear, and run around the house.

Read more
5 staple varieties of value vacuum cleaner bags
heartburn symptom management woman lying down couch

Stocking up on vacuum cleaner bags is hardly the most thrilling part of home or workspace maintenance. It’s much more fun to arrange furniture, choose paint colors, pick a wall calendar motif (Horses? Castles of Ireland?). But a steady supply of quality vacuum cleaner bags should have a place somewhere on your list of home/office beautification. Regular vacuuming with the right vacuum bag will keep that space clean, dust-free, and healthier to breathe and work in. Buying in bulk—in the right brand, of course—means you’ll get the most value for your cleaning dollar, and lets you free your mind for other important tasks while guaranteeing a cleaner working or living space.

There's a lot that goes into maintaining a healthy work environment, from office furniture to making sure you and your staff have somewhere to unwind periodically. Keeping the floors and air clean might seem like an afterthought, but a tidy environment sets a foundation for a hygienic, pleasant living and working space. Fortunately it isn't hard to keep your space clean: just match the right value vacuum bag to your machine, and don't forget to replace on a regular basis.

Read more