Local doctor discusses future of COVID-19 as ‘endemic’ disease

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:21 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Is it the normalcy we’ve been talking about for so long? Are we bouncing back to normal? Over the past month, we’ve seen dramatic drops in both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the river region.

It seems we’re trending in the right direction. This hot-spot map from the Mayo Clinic shows how things have changed in the past 60 days:


Back in September, nearly the whole state was dark red, meaning the COVID rate was high. But it’s lightened up and you see a lot of yellow now.

Richmond County is only seeing about 16 new cases daily. Doctors say it’s a promising sign, but the holidays will tell the story.

“I think many experts and health authorities are sort of holding their breath or crossing their fingers,” said Dr. Roger MacArthur, infectious diseases experts at Augusta University Health.

COVID isn’t going anywhere, but the days of calling it a pandemic might be numbered. Experts once hoped to eradicate COVID for good.

“Like measles mostly, or polio, and now they’re not so sure,” said MacArthur.

But health experts hope COVID will become an endemic – meaning disease activity won’t be as widespread.

“There will be clusters of outbreaks of COVID-19,” MacArthur said.

An endemic disease is regional and spikes are more predictable. For example, the flu or malaria in some countries. The expectation is there will always be COVID cases, but large outbreaks won’t be everywhere.

“It could be scattered, sporadic in Georgia and be widespread in Massachusetts, for instance,” MacArthur said.

Macarthur says it looks like it’s endemic now.

Like many other parts of Georgia, MacArthur says Richmond County not a high-risk place right now.

However, there is one area he says is.

“Specifically, Chattahoochee County has 13 times the case rate compared to Richmond County,” said MacArthur.

Only 20 percent of that county’s population is vaccinated.

“I think it’s probably true that the worst is behind us, but an endemic can be pretty bad for those that are in the endemic area,” he said.

Macarthur says experts need to first make sure we all don’t end up back in the red after holiday gatherings before they can declare COVID as endemic.

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