MINNEAPOLIS — Just weeks ago, it felt like everyone knew somebody who had COVID and now cases here in Minnesota are dropping.
One model from the University of Washington suggests 73% of Americans are, for now, immune to the omicron variant of coronavirus, either from vaccination or from natural immunity after getting the virus.
So, what does this mean?
Is it okay to be hopeful for the future?
"We're clearly entering a new phase of the pandemic,” Mayo Clinic Doctor Bill Morice says.
It's a phase where masking and social distancing may soon go away, Morice says.
He says the virus itself isn't going away any time soon, but with this much immunity, the hope is that if we do see another variant or spike in cases in the coming months, we won't see as many severe cases, hospitalizations and death.
"It can't be out of sight, out of mind, per se, but it at least gives us hope that we can get back to some level of normalcy here over the course of the year,” Dr. Morice says.
He remains concerned that there are pockets around the world where immunity levels are much lower.
"Even in the U.S., there is quite a bit of variability in terms of how many people got boosted in different states, how many people got immunized in different parts of the country, and how much omicron even spread in different parts of the country."
So, there is still the potential for this virus to mutate and create more variants.
"We still don't know everything and that's why we still have to be a little bit cautious,” Dr. Morice says.
Experts are hoping the pandemic will move to more of an endemic or seasonal situation in the coming months, where outbreaks will happen, but they'll be more localized and not widespread.