We don’t know exactly how the four common-cold coronaviruses first came to infect humans, but some have speculated that at least one also began with a pandemic.
If immunity to the new coronavirus wanes like it does with these others, then it will keep causing reinfections and breakthrough infections, more and more of them over time, but still mild enough. We’ll have to adjust our thinking about COVID-19 too.
The coronavirus is not something we can avoid forever; we have to prepare for the possibility that we will all get exposed one way or another.
“This is something we’re going to have to live with,” says Richard Webby, an infectious-disease researcher at St. Jude. “And so long as it’s not impacting health care as a whole, then I think we can.” The coronavirus will no longer be novel—to our immune systems or our society.
Endemic COVID-19 means finding a new, tolerable way to live with this virus. It will feel strange for a while and then it will not. It will be normal.