California is the first state to move to an ‘endemic’ plan

[Poynter] to live with COVID-19 much the same way we live with the endemic seasonal flu. Without a doubt, other states will soon follow suit. Politicians will want to be seen as forward-looking and not living in fear, even if a couple of thousand people a day are still dying of COVID-19.

While parts of the world — including Russia and Hong Kong — are still overwhelmed by new severe COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations and new cases are declining in the United States. The rate of infection is still considered to be severe in much of the U.S., but the figures are dropping. The question is whether that is good enough to begin to drop mask and vaccine requirements.

The U.S. has let up on restrictions a couple of times before in the last two years only to see cases shoot up again. California’s new endemic plan, which included the state lifting its indoor mask mandate this week, coincides with Los Angeles County reporting the second-highest daily coronavirus death toll in nearly a year on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California’s new endemic plan includes mass testing as a cornerstone, so the state can spot any new significant outbreaks. The state’s endemic plan also includes stockpiling masks, ventilators, over-the-counter tests and other resources necessary to respond if outbreaks occur. Dr. Mark Ghaly, Californias health and human services secretary, said Thursday, “We’re gliding into normal. We’re not announcing the normal. … This is a state that’s going to have tools available and keep our antennas up.’”

What is an ‘endemic?’

To be clear, ENDemic does not mean the pandemic is over. And endemic is different from epidemic. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know the difference, because a lot of doctors get this wrong on TV. Columbia University published some general guidelines for using the words:

  • AN EPIDEMIC is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes an epidemic as an unexpected increase in the number of disease cases in a specific geographical area.
  • A PANDEMIC is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents. A pandemic is an epidemic that travels. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a pandemic when a disease’s growth is exponential. This means growth rate skyrockets, and each day cases grow more than the day prior.
  • ENDEMIC is something that belongs to a particular people or country. An endemic is a disease outbreak that is consistently present but limited to a particular region. This makes the disease spread and rates predictable.
  • AN OUTBREAK is a greater-than-anticipated increase in the number of endemic cases. It can also be a single case in a new area. If it’s not quickly controlled, an outbreak can become an epidemic.

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