A prominent Arizona health expert said the omicron wave of COVID-19 is nearing its peak, and the end of the state’s public health emergency could soon follow.
“But the illness itself and the disease, the virus will be with us forever,” Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Monday. “It will no longer be a public health emergency.”
Based on data from the United Kingdom and South Africa, Humble said he expects Arizona’s omicron-fueled spike of new COVID cases to top out in late January, followed by a drop in virus-related hospitalizations and deaths in February.
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“And at that point I’m convinced that we’re going to transition to what’s called endemic, it will no longer be a pandemic, at least in the U.S., probably globally, really,” he said.
Arizona health officials have been reporting record levels of new COVID cases, with more than 20,000 on four of the last five days as of Tuesday.
The number of hospital inpatients with the virus has been climbing steadily since the start of January, but with omicron causing a smaller percentage of serious illnesses than previous variants, COVID-related ICU use has remained relatively stable.
Humble said the omicron variant has spread so quickly, and so many people have immunity from previous infection or vaccination, that the virus is on the verge of running out of potential hosts.
“I think it’s going drop like a rock. Once the virus ends up infecting the last susceptible person, it’s got nowhere else to go except breakthrough. And that’s going to keep happening,” he said.