California marks reopening anniversary amid COVID-19 surge

One year ago today, California was reopening, and COVID-19 rates were at their lowest since the pandemic began. Now, we're in the midst of another surge.
One year ago today, California was reopening, and COVID-19 rates were at their lowest since the pandemic began. Now, we're in the midst of another surge. Photo credit Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – One year ago today, California was reopening and COVID-19 rates were at their lowest since the pandemic began. Now, we're in the midst of another surge.

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Dr. Andrew Noymer, epidemiologist and health demographer at UC Irvine studying infectious diseases and mortality, told KCBS Radio's "Ask An Expert" that coronavirus is going to be with us forever.

"We've learned a lot and we're still learning almost every day about this disease," he said. "COVID is endemic. It's impossible to say exactly what date COVID became endemic, but it's just sort of a process."

At the start of the pandemic, health experts were hopeful that COVID-19 may one day be wiped from the globe, but Noymer said that goal is no longer realistic. "It's not going to be eradicated, it's going to be with us for the rest of our lives, hopefully in a much more attenuated form, but it's not going to vanish or be eradicated," he said. "That's why we're still having waves at 12 months to the day from when California reopened."

Throughout the past year, mask mandates have fallen and been reinstated, schools have opened and closed and restaurants have inducted and relaxed their requirement on vaccination status throughout the Bay Area. Now, almost all Bay Area counties are mask free. "All of our behavior factors into the case numbers," Noymer said. "Thankfully, omicron is less deadly and the variants we have now are less deadly than the original wave."

As the country tackles the current omicron subvariant surge, Noymer explained it's partially due to the virus' transmissibility as well as the public's everyday activities.

"This is a virus, although it's less deadly, that has become more contagious throughout the pandemic. Everyone knows someone who's had COVID at least once, whether or not they realized it," he said. "I do think schools are part of the spread, but you cannot do K-12, 13 years of education, all through Zoom, imagine what those young adults would be like. Workspaces, gyms, restaurants — collectively all of these play a role in the continued spread of COVID."

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