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COVID will become endemic by later this year, ex-Biden task-force head predicts

COVID-19 could become endemic sometime this year as vaccination rates increase, getting the US to a place where Americans “learn to live with it,” a former member of President Biden’s coronavirus task force said Sunday.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who was a member of Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, said the virus could finally get under control with the help of vaccine mandates. That would make it endemic like the flu, which is a constant presence but not a major concern.

“We think that over the course of 2022, we will get to an endemic stage, and the plan is — or the proposal is — we need a strategic plan for that, that covers vaccines, getting more people vaccinated, and the only way to do that, as we’ve been very clear over time, is mandates,” Emanuel said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Emanuel said new treatments and other mitigation measures will also play a role in helping the virus become more manageable.

“We need to improve our ventilation system. We need to get more therapies and get the link between a positive test and getting a therapy much closer so you can actually start in three days, and not only the rich and well-off get it,” he said.

“Those are the kinds of things we need to put in place over the next three months to be prepared when COVID is really just in the air, like RSV, another respiratory virus, like influenza, like adenovirus, all the respiratory viruses. It’s going to be here. We’re going to learn to live with it,” he said.

But with the spread of the coronavirus’s Omicron variant, the country is still very much in the pandemic, Emanuel said.

“I would say we’re not yet in the endemic stage. We’re still in the pandemic stage. If you’ve got 1,500 people a day dying from this disease, it’s still a pandemic, and Omicron is spreading,” he said.

More than 138,000 COVID-19 patients were in US hospitals as of Saturday, not far off from the all-time high of about 142,200 in January 2021, according to figures from the US Department of Health and Human Services.