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Stateside Podcast: How we learn to live with COVID

a light blue surgical mask rests on a gray background
Kai Pilger
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COVID-19 isn't going away. That means that preventative measures like vaccinations, masking up, and quarantining if exposed are going to continue to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future, said Michigan State University epidemiologist Debra Furr-Holden.

There’s this weird sense of pandemic groundhog day going around right now. Infections and death rates are still so high, even after everything that's happened in the last two years.

It's left a lot of people wondering: is there ever going to be an end to all this?

“Everybody wants this big boom. You know, we're going to have a flyover and fireworks and declare the pandemic over," said epidemiologist Debra Furr-Holden, a professor of public health at Michigan State University. "But what most people don't realize is SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID 19 is now endemic.”

That means we will have to learn to live with the virus, Furr-Holden added, and get real about the danger it still poses. While the promise of a “return to normal” is enticing, it's far from reality.

“The train has left the station on eradicating this disease right now. What we're now trying to do is figure out, how do we live with it?”

Furr-Holden is one of many public health officials trying to navigate the murky questions of where’s safe to go, what’s safe to do. Though some studies indicate that the omicron variant is less likely to produce severe illness than its predecessors, she said we aren't out of the woods yet.

Even if you're vaccinated, other preventative measures like masking up, testing, and quarantining if exposed remain important when it comes to flattening the curve and preventing unnecessary infections and deaths. That's especially important during COVID-19 surges like the one we're facing now, when hospital systems are struggling to keep up with a flood of patients amid staff shortages and illness.

"When we can effectively and reliably and consistently integrate the things that we know to do into our day-to-day lives to prevent spread and illness, we will learn to live with it...That's when the pandemic will be over. There's nothing magical that's going to happen, except what we do as a nation and as a global society to figure out how to live with this virus."

Looking for more conversations from Stateside? Right this way.

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Stateside’s theme music is by 14KT.

Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

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April Van Buren
April Van Buren is a producer for Stateside. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.