Mar. 18, 2023 -- The leader of the World Health Organization said Friday that he expects the organization to declare an end to the COVID-19 pandemic later this year because statistics on the virus keep declining.
“I am confident that this year we will be able to say that COVID-19 is over as a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at a Geneva briefing.
For the first time, the weekly number of reported COVID deaths over a four-week period was lower than when WHO declared COVID a global pandemic three years ago.
“We are certainly in a much better position now than we have been at any time during the pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus.
In January, Ghebreyesus said the pandemic was probably at “a transition point,” meaning public health measures could be further de-escalated.
In the United States, COVID-related statistics have gone up and down over the last three years as different strains of the virus dominate, but the numbers are now trending downward.
A CDC chart shows there were 1,706 weekly deaths as of March 15 of this year. That’s the lowest number of weekly deaths since March 25, 2020, when there were 1,119.
Another lull occurred when weekly deaths dropped to 1,717 on July 7, 2021. The highest number of weekly deaths came on Jan. 13, 2021, when there were more than 23,000.
Reported hospitalizations for COVID also are down, with 2,636 total admissions for the week ending March 15. Hospitalizations were actually a little lower in June 2021 and April 2022.
COVID cases in the U.S. have declined to 21,422 for the week ending March 17 – almost 20% lower than the previous week, the CDC says. Health officials say the number is actually higher because many people find out they’re positive through home testing and don’t alert the local health department. The case count was somewhat lower in the summer of 2021, before the Omicron surge.
The U.S. government is looking ahead to the official end of the pandemic. The Biden administration says the two national emergency declarations dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic will end May 11. That means many services, such as free testing and vaccines, will no longer be available.
The WHO says there have been more than 760 million cases of COVID in the world with more than 6.8 million COVID-related deaths. The United States has the most cases (more than 102 million) and deaths (over 1.1 million) than any other nation.