Infectious disease experts say Minnesota could slowly move into COVID-19 endemic

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Two years ago this week, the World Health Organization announced the spread of the COVID-19 virus had become a pandemic.

Now, two Minnesota infectious disease experts say there are positive signs that the state could slowly be moving into an endemic rather than a pandemic as case numbers and COVID hospitalizations decline.

Dr. Peter Bornstein with St. Paul Infectious Disease Associates told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, “things are getting better,” but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

“I look at the World Health Organization dashboard to see if there is another crazy variant out there that’s lurking, and so far — knock on wood — there are no new variants of interest or concern that have been identified,” Bornstein said. “But that’s the real wildcard, you know, is some new variant going to come along and upend the apple cart?”

A pandemic is a global spread of a specific disease that continuously moves across borders. An endemic means the spread has lessened but remains in the population, and Bornstein said there is no way to predict when that will happen in Minnesota.

“The nice thing is, here in Minnesota, the days are getting longer, the weather’s getting warmer, we’re going to spend more time outdoors, and that’s going to help,” Bornstein said.

Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease expert with the Mayo Clinic, said the key to moving into an endemic will be the absence of any new “variants of concern.”

“The point is that these viruses will continually find ways to overcome any sort of population immunity, whether that be illness-induced immunity, or vaccine-induced immunity, in order to keep propagating and infecting people,” said Poland.