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The COVID pandemic is over. Now what?

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Image by Sumanley xulx from Pixabay

Last week the World Health Organization said COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency.

Around the world, during the devastating pandemic, millions of people were killed. In the last three years there were lockdowns, mask mandates and remote schooling. All were once unthinkable, but they became commonplace. During the pandemic, economies were upended and are still attempting to recover. Misinformation about the origin and treatment of the virus took root and tricked some people into ingesting horse worm poison. Outlandish conspiracies were concocted that resulted in nurses, doctors and medical officials to be attacked.

It was in April when President Joe Biden ended the national COVID-19 emergency by signing a bipartisan congressional resolution. In the United States, during the pandemic, there were at least 6 million hospitalizations and 1.1 million deaths due to COVID.

And yet the official news that the pandemic was over was met with an almost global “ho-hum.” There were no celebrations or “Mission Accomplished” moments.

The lack of post-pandemic parties might be due to the accumulative trauma society has endured, Perhaps the world is too exhausted or depleted for breaking out in dance after surviving a planet-wide catastrophe.

But more likely the eye-rolling that was felt around the world is a response of disbelief.

COVID is still out there and isn’t finished with us. There is that sense of dread that the calm we are now experiencing could be the reprise offered in the eye of a hurricane.

Around the world, there continue to be COVID hot spots, for instance, in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Every case of COVID transmitted is another opportunity for the virus to mutate again and come roaring back.

The WHO says thousands of people are still dying from the virus every week, and millions of others are suffering from debilitating, long-term effects.

What should people do to protect themselves in the post-pandemic? Is wearing a mask still a good idea? Will there continue to be vaccines, and will they still be free? Do we still need to self-isolate for five days if we suspect we have been exposed to COVID? What did we learn from the pandemic? Are we better prepared or worse off to deal with the next pandemic?


Dr. Jason Bowling is an infectious diseases specialist from UT Health San Antonio and University Health.

Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez is a professor and chair of the department of rehabilitation medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and medical director of rehabilitation medicine services at University Health.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255 or email thesource@tpr.org.

*This interview will be recorded on Thursday, May 11.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi