Has COVID-19 reached endemic levels in Florida?

Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 3:16 PM EST
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Coronavirus cases in Florida continue to fall sharply with the case count currently at its lowest numbers in two months.

Two other key indicators, positivity rates and hospitalizations, are also trending down significantly.

So are we moving away from a pandemic phase and an endemic cycle?

WPTV spoke Tuesday with infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush to gauge his thoughts on where Florida is headed as we navigate COVID-19 after two years.

"Endemic means a disease that's in the community that's always prevalent to some low number," Bush said. "For instance, there's always influenza in the world and our country at some low number that may increase."

That is compared to an epidemic, which means that there is suddenly a large number of cases of a disease that may or may not have been in the community and rapidly infects many people.

Finally, a pandemic is defined as an epidemic that spreads not just to one country but to several parts of the world.

Despite the lower case levels being an encouraging sign, Bush is not ready to say the pandemic has become endemic.

"I think we still have to get through the springtime and maybe early summer," Bush said. "Remember, just last week the positivity rate in Palm Beach County was 6%. But at the end of the delta [wave], we were approaching numbers like 2 to 2.5%."

He said he continues to urge people to use common sense safety measures to prevent an uptick in case levels.

"It's a little bit shortsighted to think that you can't become infected just because the numbers are dropping," Bush said.

Bush said data gathering by clinical labs that test for COVID-19 indicate that about one-third of Florida residents, or about 8 million people, have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

He said it is possible that we could have yearly vaccines for COVID-19 that are altered to whatever variant is transmitting at the moment.

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