(WXYZ) — We're approaching the second anniversary of the first COVID-19 cases in Michigan, and the fourth wave, driven by the omicron variant, is beginning to wane.
The 7-day case average in Michigan sits at more than 13,000 cases a day. It's still a lot, but it's down from more than 20,000 cases a day in early January.
With that in mind, is it time to treat COVID-19 like the flu? Health experts say no, but it could be that way soon.
Andrew Cox, the Macomb County Health Officer, attributes the drop in cases to vaccinations and omicron running its course, leaving fewer people to infect. Despite that, it's not time to treat COVID-19 like the flu because hospitalizations are still a problem.
"We still have a high number of people that are hospitalized in the hospitals, and we're not quite there yet," Cox said.
Dr. Teena Chopra also agrees that COVID-19 will shift toward being an endemic like the flu. But for now, the omicron community transmission and societal burden are still too high.
"We are at 30% at this point. If we come to 5%, we can live with the virus. The numbers that will not overwhelm the healthcare system," Chopra said.
So what will it look like when we reach the point of treating COVID like the flu? There will still be outbreaks that require public health efforts to control, like in December when the CDC sent a team to Ann Arbor to investigate a flu outbreak at the University of Michigan. Or, Michigan's 2019 measles outbreak centered in Oakland County.
"That will look like that. We will have to intervene through public health, through infection control measures," Chopra said.
Stepping in to work with facilities, schools or communities where hotspots develop will be important. It will require constant surveillance. But before we can get there, we have another major push ahead. Vaccinating younger kids.
We need to vaccinate our youngest children and get boosters to American's of all ages.
We also need to support efforts of global vaccination. We have seen how variants develop overseas and come to the U.s.
When we start treating COVID-19 like the flu we need to limit the virus's ability to mutate if we want to keep it that way.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.