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Healthcare coverage from WYPR is made possible by support from GBMC HealthCare.

Is a “new normal” phase for COVID-19 on the horizon?


A top World Health Organization (WHO) official expressed hope Monday that omicron could mean a new phase of “normalization,” and an eventual end to the “emergency phase” of the pandemic this year.

But the official – Dr. Hans Kluge, the director of WHO’s European region – warned that it was too early for people to let down their guard, with many uninfected people remaining unvaccinated.

In Maryland, COVID-19 metrics have been continually dipping since early January. As of Monday, the COVID-19 positivity rate is below 15% - not low, but encouraging, given a peak rate of just under 30% just weeks ago.

Dr. John Chessare, president and CEO of GBMC Healthcare, says hospitalizations will be slow to drop because patients need care for weeks.

“The good news is we're not adding a lot of new ones any longer,” he told WYPR.

Chessare hopes that omicron may be behind us, but shares concerns with Kluge that with people remaining unvaccinated, new variants may emerge.

“The big question is, is there enough coronavirus immunity throughout the world to slow the progression of new variants? That is the problem,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical advisor for COVID-19, said in an appearance Sunday on ABC’s "This Week" that numbers in the U.S. are going in the right direction. But he also warned against overconfidence.

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.