SAN FRANCISCO – There’s growing talk in the medical community that the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be entering the “endemic” phase.

“What an endemic phase of a viral infections means is that it’s not causing the terrible hospitalizations of the pandemic phase but that we’ll have enough immunity of a population so it’s kept down to low levels,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is predicting that it will happen in a month.

“This is a challenging period,” Newsom said during a recent news conference. “We’re going to get through this. Just a few more weeks.”

However, experts have warned that the unpredictability of the variant makes setting a timeline difficult.

“We’re still a way off” from COVID-19 reaching endemicity, Dr. Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency officer and COVID-19 incident manager at the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said during a virtual Europe news conference last week.

Exhausted after two years of the pandemic, many are wondering what exactly life will look like when we officially reach endemicity.

“We will likely not be masking, distancing, contact tracing, doing asymptomatic testing,” Dr. Gandhi said.

“We’ll manage it more like influenza, which is vaccines, treatment and recommending masks for the vulnerable inside,” Dr. Gandhi said. 

Dr. Gandhi says the highly transmissible omicron variant could drive the pandemic into endemicity.

“There’s [an] incredible number of cases in both vaccinated and unvaccinated. What that does is it exposes you to the entire virus and you develop antibodies, T cells and B cells across the entire virus,” Dr. Gandhi said. 

Infectious disease doctors are monitoring the omicron surge around the world. Data from samples of wastewater indicates omicron is declining.

“In Boston, the wastewater is showing 40 percent decrease in COVID, we have all turned a corner in California with wastewater COVID amounts which means the amount of COVID is going down,” Dr. Gandhi said. “That will be reflected in our cases going down in a couple of days. Usually, wastewater surveillance goes first then when it comes down it will come down quickly.”