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What Colorado's COVID endemic response may look like

Even after the pandemic ends, Coloradans will still have to live with COVID in their daily lives.

COLORADO, USA — COVID has challenged us in many ways. Now, new challenges face our state as case numbers go down, Colorado begins to talk about the next stage: figuring out the endemic response to COVID-19.

"Endemic just means that it’s with us," said Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander for the state of Colorado. 

For nearly two years, we’ve listened in on crowded Zoom calls as state health leaders told us what the future of the pandemic would look like. Bookman has led the state's response and now he's trying to figure out what comes next after acknowledging the virus will always be with us.

"We are looking at short term and long term scenarios and starting to do some planning around, ‘How do you live with this virus?" said Bookman. "We see a great desire amongst everyone to move forward and move past this pandemic. It has obviously been an incredibly difficult two years."

Health leaders predict COVID will eventually become endemic in Colorado, meaning in part, that doctors and hospitals will respond to it much the same way as they do other viruses like the flu. Life will look pretty normal, but COVID will still linger in the background.

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Over the coming weeks, we’ll see fewer masks as the mandates go away. They might come back sometime in the future.

"What we’re going to see most likely is new variants come up, we’ll see additional waves hit our state, our country, the world," said Bookman. "We need to be prepared for any number of different scenarios."

A lot of the technology created during the pandemic will continue to be used. Testing wastewater will prove vital, according to state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy.

"It’s also been incredibly useful for us in understanding the emergence of new variants and looking for those new variants and where they may be occurring first in the state," said Herlihy. 

There’s no timeline set in stone for when the state will shift its pandemic response to an endemic response. Regardless, one thing's for sure, COVID is here to stay.

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