July 7, 2022 -- The COVID-19 virus could become endemic, meaning it will persist in a less fearsome mode like the flu or common cold. But that might not happen until 2024, says a new study from Yale published this week in PNAS Nexus.

Researchers studied infection rates in rats and modeled possible paths for the COVID-19 virus.

“There are many lessons to be learned from animal coronaviruses,” said Caroline Zeiss, Yale professor of comparative medicine and senior author of the report.

Zeiss said that some people develop better immunity after an infection, but we still need vaccinations which are standardized and offer reliable rates of immunity. Yale reports, “With both vaccination and natural exposure, the population accumulates broad immunity that pushes the virus toward endemic stability.”

The Yale team predicts that in 2024 – four years after the pandemic began in March 2020 – about 15% of the population could be infected at any given time.

In the meantime, the virus will constantly circulate, and certain populations will remain more vulnerable to it. “We can’t assume that once we reach the endemic state that everybody is safe,” Zeiss said.

The dominant variant in the country is BA.5, which is highly contagious and resists vaccine and immunity, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says.

“That means someone who has been boosted or has recently had COVID-19 still does not have protection,” NBC News reports. “It’s why the CDC recommends masking indoors again.”

Colds and flus are endemic – or, as NBC put it, “Everyone gets them now and then, but they are not particularly harmful.”

Zeiss said, “We accepted that we would get a cold every year. This is going to become like that, eventually, we think. However, the disease is still quite pathogenic. There's still a caveat, that for susceptible people, the virus could still be deadly.”

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Yale: “For Covid-19, endemic stage could be two years away”
NBC Connecticut: “Yale Researchers Predict COVID-19 Endemic Phase Will Happen in 2024”
 

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