As COVID-19 restrictions ease, infectious disease specialists encouraged by pandemic’s current trajectory

Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 2:44 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2022 at 5:59 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Many portions of the country are on the road to an endemic as health leaders claim we are in a new stage of the fight against COVID-19.

That means changes to safety recommendations, some of which have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago.

Mask mandates across the country are being dropped as new CDC guidance says indoor masking is no longer required for areas with low to medium COVID-19 risk.

“You may have to be a little more careful if you’re in one of those high-risk groups or if you’re a family member or caretaker of somebody who is,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.

Threlkeld says as protocols begin to relax, some risks remain, especially for people who are immunocompromised.

“It can be a little more complicated than what these recommendations are,” said Threlkeld. “The CDC will be the first to agree with that and admit that but putting that into practice can sometimes be difficult and in fact, has been one of the chief difficulties throughout the whole pandemic has had to take big recommendations for large groups of people and apply them to individual folks, you and your loved ones.”

Hospitalizations are one of the benchmarks the CDC factors in with determining COVID-19 risk. Threlkeld says because the Mid-South has a high density of hospital beds, there are other factors he would look at.

“The primary focus needs to be on the number of cases in the community,” said Threlkeld. “We know that they can be underreported because people aren’t necessarily calling the health department about their rapid tests at home. We need to have people do that if they can and we need to keep track kind of the modeling of how that really leads us in terms of the real cases.”

While there are still a lot of unknown factors of the disease, he says we’re going in the right direction.

“The trajectory that we’re on, you know, we’re not going to see people ask if spring break is going to make for another surge,” said Threlkeld. “No, I don’t think so. I think things are moving forward with the trajectory that they’re just going to get better. And again, it all comes down to whether or not there’s a new variant. If there’s not, we’re going to be in pretty good shape moving forward.”

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