When COVID-19 Will End in the United States
More than 154 million Americans have gotten both doses of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or other types of COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination drive in the U.S. has been underway for nearly six months- leading to declining new cases in the majority of states. COVID-19 related cases and deaths are also at their lowest levels since July 2020, giving experts reason to believe we may be near the “end” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When COVID-19 Will End? Different models point to Q4 2021 As Back-To-Normal Timeline
The COVID-19 pandemic can be estimated to end (fully “back to normal”) by Q4 of 2021. However, it’s important to understand what the end of COVID-19 really means.
Looking at Past Pandemics
Many researchers believe may never actually see the “end” of COVID-19, but instead, COVID-19 will become an endemic source, such as the flu virus, meaning it’ll circulate even when the pandemic ends.
This is based on experiences from the last four pandemics, H1N1, H2N2, H3N2, and the Spanish Flu. These pandemics all ended (and still circulate today) because these viruses went through a transition where they became milder illnesses.
Even though the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is foreseeable, all states will have a different timeline when it comes to herd immunity. Depending on the speed to reach herd immunity via vaccination or natural infection, each state will vary. Once a state reached 75-85% herd immunity, it’s likely cases will be low enough for a return to normal life.
States That Are Reopening
As states move closer in the direction of getting back to normal life, it’s important to know that isolated cases will still occur. Additionally, “the end” of the coronavirus pandemic will not happen in a few days, but more so, a phased approach.
This means that while, in your state or area, it may feel like the pandemic is over, it won’t fully be that way everywhere. Some steps that will be implemented (some have already been in effect depending on the state) include:
- Returning to fully in-classroom education (both K-12 and college)
- Fewer restrictions at bars and restaurants (no masks or seating restrictions)
- Larger capacities at gyms
- Increase number of gatherings with larger groups of people (outdoors and then indoors)
- Offices reopening (many businesses will still allow their employees to work from home)
- Fewer prohibitions on interregional and international travel (this one may take some significant time, depending on the country)
Some states are fully reopening (no capacity limits) and no longer have any restrictions in terms of mask-wearing. States that aren’t on the list below are already fully reopened.
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Reopening Dates in Each State
|Alabama||July 6: The governor will end the State of Emergency.|
|Alaska||April 30: The governor lifted the Public Health Emergency. The emergency declaration expired on Febuary 14, but the state enacted legislation retroactively extending the emergency until April 30 so as to allow the state to access federal food assistance benefits.|
|Arizona||The Public Health Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|Arkansas||May 30: The governor let the Disaster and Public Health Emergency expire.|
|California||The Public Health State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|Colorado||July 11: Unless renewed, the Disaster Emergency will expire.|
|Connecticut||July 20: Unless renewed, the Public Health Emergency will expire.|
|Delaware||July 13: The governor will allow the State of Emergency to expire.|
|District of Columbia||May 20: The Public Health Emergency expired after the Mayor declined to extend the order.|
|Florida||June 26: The governor allowed the Public Health Emergency to expire.|
|Georgia||July 1: The governor will allow the Public Health Emergency to expire.|
|Hawaii||Aug. 6: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Idaho||June 20: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Illinois||June 27: Unless renewed, the Disaster Declaration will expire.|
|Indiana||July 1: Unless renewed, the Public Health Emergency will expire.|
|Iowa||July 25: Unless renewed, the Disaster Emergency will expire.|
|Kansas||June 15: The State of Disaster Emergency expired after lawmakers cancelled a meeting to consider an extension.|
|Kentucky||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|Louisiana||June 23: Unless renewed, the Public Health Emergency will expire.|
|Maine||June 30: The governor will end the State of Civil Emergency.|
|Maryland||July 1: The governor will lift the State of Emergency.|
|Massachusetts||June 15: The governor lifted the State of Emergency|
|Michigan||Oct. 12, 2020: The State of Emergency ended after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the governor does not have authority under either of the state’s emergency statutes to continue declaring states of emergency or issuing unilateral orders under them past April 30, 2020, when her initial declaration would have expired.|
|Minnesota||July 14: Unless renewed, the Peacetime Emergency will expire.|
|Mississippi||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|Missouri||Aug. 31: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Montana||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|Nebraska||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|Nevada||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|New Hampshire||June 12: The governor allowed the State of Emergency to expire.|
|New Jersey||June 4: The governor ended the Public Health Emergency.|
|New Mexico||June 25: Unless renewed, the Public Health Emergency will expire.|
|New York||June 24: The governor allowed the Disaster Emergency to expire.|
|North Carolina||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|North Dakota||April 30: The Governor lifted the State of Emergency.|
|Ohio||June 18: The governor lifted the State of Emergency.|
|Oklahoma||May 4: The governor ended the State of Emergency.|
|Oregon||June 28: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Pennsylvania||June 10: The Disaster Emergency ended after the state legislature voted to end the declaration.|
|Rhode Island||July 9: Unless renewed, the Disaster Emergency will expire.|
|South Carolina||June 6: The State of Emergency expired after the Governor declined to extend the order.|
|South Dakota||Jun. 30: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Tennessee||July 30: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Texas||July 4: Unless renewed, the State of Disaster will expire.|
|Utah||The Public Health Emergency Order is in place until further notice.|
|Vermont||June 15: The State of Emergency expired.|
|Virginia||June 30: Unless renewed, the State of Emergency will expire.|
|Washington||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
|West Virginia||The State of Preparedness is in place until further notice.|
|Wisconsin||March 31: The Public Health Emergency ended after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the governor overstepped his authority when he declared several states of emergency since the start of the pandemic without input from the legislature.|
|Wyoming||The State of Emergency is in place until further notice.|
The COVID-19 pandemic can be considered “over” when there are very low levels of infections, hospitalizations, and when everyone feels like they can lead a normal life by being in public without masks and attending live events without worry. Communities, states, and countries will reach an "end" at different times based on the population’s level of commitment to following guidelines and the area’s access to vaccinations.
Below, we go into greater detail on each of the main factors that impact an area’s ability to get back to normal life and past the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two important factors to determine the epidemiological end date of the COVID-19 Pandemic
1. The Number of People Who Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the number one factor that will determine how quickly we can put an end to the pandemic is the number of people who will be willing to get the vaccine. It is suggested that if we can get 75-85% of the population vaccinated, the COVID-19 pandemic will be functionally over.
As of July 2021, nearly 46% of all individuals in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. We expect that number to rise over the summer. Additionally, teenagers and young adults or adolescents down to the age of 12 now have access to the vaccine. According to a recent study conducted by the New York Times, epidemiologists believe the true end of the pandemic is not possible until the vaccine is available to all Americans, including those who are younger than 12 years of age.
2. How Long Immunity from Vaccine Will Last
Second, according to the CDC, there are currently three authorized vaccines on the market in the U.S. - manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. While both Pfizer and Moderna (the two most popular since J&J was stopped for a while due to the effects on a few women) have been reported to have a 95% effectiveness, we still need to see how long the immunity effect will last after a large percentage of the population is vaccinated.
Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) Chief Executive Albert Bourla, has said people will "likely" need a booster dose of the company's vaccine every 12 months - similar to an annual flu shot – to maintain high levels of immunity against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants. However, other experts say there is no evidence that can support this as of yet.
What Herd Immunity is, and Why it Matters
To many, herd immunity means that we have enough people that are either protected from getting the virus or that have already gotten the virus that we can control any outbreaks to isolated events.
There are different types of herd immunity:
- Nationwide herd immunity: In this case, most of the population is well protected so that the country experiences, at most, occasional small flare-ups of the disease. However, this scenario is most likely in smaller countries where immunity to COVID-19 can become uniformly high.
- Regional herd immunity: Some regions, states, or cities are well protected, while others experience ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19. In large, diverse countries like the United States, this situation is especially easy to imagine.
- Temporary herd immunity: A population or region achieves herd immunity for some period, but as variants are introduced, against which prior immunity is less effective, a new wave of cases is launched. Another potential trigger for such a wave could come as immunity (particularly natural immunity) wanes. As the number of new cases of COVID-19 falls globally, the rate of emergence of important variants should also decrease, but some risks will remain.
- Endemicity: A region that fails to achieve herd immunity. Endemicity is most likely in places where vaccine access is limited, where few people choose to be vaccinated, if the duration of immunity is short, or variants that reduce vaccine efficacy are common and widespread. Endemicity might include cyclic, seasonal waves of disease, broadly similar to the flu, or a multi-year cycle of resurgence.
It’s also important to note that while herd immunity was a popular concept earlier in the pandemic, experts are now saying that herd immunity should not be the goal for the public- vaccination should. The more people who are vaccinated, the quicker we are able to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s possible that the “end” of COVID-19 is relatively near. Considering the positive effects of the vaccine rollout, decline in new positive cases, and COVID-19 related deaths; we are seeing many hopeful improvements in the data across the country.