Coronavirus

As WHO ends COVID-19 global emergency, Houston expert says virus is still around but numbers ‘dramatically’ down

“This signals, the transition from a pandemic to an endemic, we just to have to learn to how to deal with it.”

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FILE: Linsey Jones, a medical assistant working at a drive-up coronavirus testing clinic, wears an N95 mask.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency.

With less cases each day, pretty much everyone has returned to normalcy. Chief of Infectious Disease with UTHealth Houston and Memorial Herman Dr. Luis Ostrosky said that positive cases do still show up, though the number of daily COVID-19 patients have dwindled down for awhile now.

"It has been down dramatically. In general I can tell you we still have about between 80-120 patients with a positive test system wise on a daily basis," Ostrosky said.

Although the numbers are down, Ostrosky said that we should always be prepared just in case.

"We need to watch out for new variants, new peaks in the future and if we do have one that’s of concern, we need to be ready to pivot back to our known preventive measures," Ostrosky said.

With the decline in cases the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that after May 11, authorizations to collect certain public health data will expire.

Ostrosky said that the announcement from WHO did not surprise him, after the decline in cases.

"I think the writing was on the walls," he said. "This signals, the transition from a pandemic to an endemic, we just to have to learn to how to deal with it."

Ostrosky said the pandemic was a life-changing event for him.

"We were preparing for decades for a pandemic like this, looking back we fully underestimated how much it would last and impact our society,” Ostrosky said.

Ostrosky said that the initial hit was in waves.

"We went through several waves through our hospital system," he said. "In the worst of it, almost 20% of our beds were taken over by COVID-19 patients who were really sick."

During quarantine, Ostrosky said that him and his colleagues tried the best they could to prepare.

"We were ready to switch to pandemic mode, but again it really was life changing for all of us," Ostrosky said.

Ostrosky also said that times did get harder as hospital members were getting sick causing a stretch in help all throughout the hospital.

"Staff are getting sick too, and were having to cover all the services, were having to flex time, flex people," Ostrosky said.

To combat this Ostrosky said that they created a kept up a command module for over two years.

"This was really almost a military operation to keep the hospitals working and people safe," he said.

Ostrosky said that he learned a lot from the pandemic and praised the many health professions that stepped-up and helped.

"One of the things that really struck me is the bravery of health care professionals," Ostrosky said. "We had people suiting up and going into those rooms, and taking care of those people in desperate need of help."