MADISON, Wis. (AP) — COVID-19 could become endemic by the end of the year, Wisconsin’s top doctor said Thursday.
Department of Health Services chief medical officer Dr Ryan Westergaard has always warned that the number of cases could periodically increase, but the disease will likely reach a stage in 2022 where the number of cases will remain fairly constant.
Westergaard’s remarks come as an increase in cases in Wisconsin driven by the omicron variant continues to subside. Wisconsin’s seven-day case average was 4,679 on Thursday, down from 18,857 on Jan. 19. According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, 1,442 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, down 389 patients from a week ago.
Some medical experts argue that COVID-19 will never become endemic because the disease will be caused by new variants that can evade vaccinations and infect large swaths of unvaccinated people. The medical community is closely watching a new descendant of the omicron variant that experts say is highly transmissible.
Westergaard did not elaborate on his prediction at a press conference, but admitted that COVID-19 is difficult to predict. The state health department had recorded fewer than five cases of the version of omicron that scientists call BA.2 as of Thursday. Westergaard said he expects those numbers to rise. BA.2 appears to be more infectious but does not appear to cause more severe disease than omicron.
Governor Tony Evers’ office announced on Thursday that 70 members of the Wisconsin National Guard have completed a two-week certified nursing assistant course and deployed to address staffing shortages at health care facilities across the country. State, including facilities at Mineral Point, Wisconsin Dells, La Crosse, New London, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Cornell, Woodville, Sturgeon Bay, Suring, Antigo, Weyauwega, Kaukauna, Kenosha, Waunakee, Glendale and Racine.