During this current winter wave, many countries outside the U.S. continue to use blunt COVID mitigation measures that they relied on early in the pandemic. These measures, such as transitioning kids to at-home learning and closing businesses, resulted in significant social and economic costs. Yet more people died globally in 2021 than in 2020 as the virus slashed its way through older and unvaccinated individuals, raising the death toll at an alarming rate.

Nearly 800,000 Americans have died so far during the pandemic, with more than half of those deaths occurring during 2021 (New York Times, 2022). Comparatively, the Spanish influenza of 1918 infected an estimated one-third of the world’s population, resulting in at least 50 million deaths worldwide (Choudhury, 2021). The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) provides COVID-19 projections bi-weekly. Based upon their current projection, by April 1, 2022, the U.S. will reach 970,243 reported COVID-19 deaths (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2022).

There can be no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, serious, and unpredictable. But based on current data and past patterns, we can forecast what Spring 2022 might bring and how to best respond.

2022: Beyond winter, into spring

The number of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 is horrific, especially when you consider that around seven in 10 U.S. adults (72%) report that they personally know someone who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19 (Tyson, Funk, Kenney, & Johnson, 2021). Though devastating, the “silver lining” is that in terms of pandemics, what is happening now is not unusual. As Charumilind, et al., explains: “Epidemics end in one of two ways—either we close off all chains of transmission and drive cases to zero, as with all Ebola epidemics to date, or the disease becomes an ongoing part of the infectious-disease landscape, or endemic, as tuberculosis is today” (2021).

Societal impact

Now, on what is hopefully the verge of moving from a pandemic to an endemic, is the time for governments and countries to create a vision for what the new normal will look like and build consensus around it.

In the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on lives and livelihoods, but response and action beyond vaccination and testing is different from nation to nation. Some countries close their borders, while some remain open. Some introduce a fourth vaccination shot, and others a “circuit breaker.” Some have closed shops and businesses, and some have not introduced anything different at all.

If you examine the past data of the various COVID-19 management tactics, a common thread among strategies that have had the most success appears to be the presence of a philosophy that the COVID response is “a shared responsibility” and “everyone’s business.” While pandemic management differs widely from country to country, greater success in lessening its impacts can be achieved with a unified response (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2020; World Health Organization, 2021).

Author: Seleem ChoudhuryDr. Seleem R. Choudhury, DNP, is an international clinician and operational executive with a demonstrated record of exceeding clinical and financial metrics, developing talent, redeveloping strategy and service lines in academic hospitals and health systems and community settings, and being a positive deviant facilitating change within healthcare.