ALABAMA (WHNT) — The Omicron variant has been the driving force behind new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. since December. Some doctors in Alabama said we might start to see relief from Omicron soon.

However, Epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Judd says we could see Omicron cases plateau soon.

On Tuesday, Judd of the UAB School of Public Health gave an update on the Omicron variant and the future of COVID-19. Judd said, “This current surge is estimated to last two or three weeks before we really start to get some relief at this higher level where we are right now. It should go back down to what it was pre-Omicron.”

While the Omicron surge could end in a few weeks, that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to put COVID-19 behind us. Judd says while we don’t know when the next surge may come, it is likely that we will have one.

Judd also said it is likely that at some point, COVID-19 in the United States might be able to move on from being a pandemic to being an Endemic.

“Endemic viruses are just viruses that are regularly circulating. They pop up and become Epidemic, which just means they have a surge every now and then. But when they are Endemic, it just means that we have to live with them regularly. So we have to have ways that we deal with these viruses that keep the population as safe as possible,” Judd said

Judd added influenza is a more common example of an endemic. She says it is can be managed with vaccines and routine care. She used a flu surge in schools as an example of what the spread of COVID-19 in schools could look like, once it lessons from a Pandemic.

When asked what would need to happen in order for the United States to transition from a pandemic to an endemic, Judd said in addition to lower levels of hospitalizations and deaths, the scientific community would need to come to a better agreement. Saying:

“We as a scientific community have to agree on the definition of Endemic first. We’re not quite there yet, we’re still talking about it, figuring out how we move from a novel virus into something that’s more Endemic and its something we haven’t done, really in the last three decades. So it’s going to take a lot of discussion and conversation. But again, likely when society is comfortable with the consequences of the virus, which would be low rates of hospitalization and death.”

Suzanne Judd,  Ph.D — Professor and Epidemiologist in the UAB School of Public Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the following definitions for the terms:

  • Epidemic: an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.
  • Endemic: the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.
  • Pandemic: an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

Judd also touched on whether reaching herd immunity as a society might be possible. She said it’s “probably not possible… not the type of herd immunity where we never see the virus again”.