Delta might be the last COVID nightmare variant we get

Rear view of an African American adult woman receiving the COVID-19 vaccine by nurse o female doctor...
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It’s officially been a year-and-a-half since the pandemic reared its hideous head in the U.S. and we've finally gotten the prediction we've all been waiting for: The worst could actually be behind us — for real this time. This hopeful hypothesis comes from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who told CNN that unless another variant that evades immunity slithers out, then Delta was probably the final big spike.

Although we’re probably going to see cases continue to rise in the coming months because of school re-openings and because this virus just adores the winter, it will probably be much less deadly than last year’s. That’s because 64% of all Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Our most vulnerable populations have been vaxxed at even higher rates: 93.3% of people over 65 have received at least one shot, according to the CDC.

On top of that, third booster shots of Pfizer were just approved for some frontline workers, a controversial decision that is shaking up the CDC. Whether or not it was the right move, boosters will offer added protection to millions of already-vaxxed people.

Experts want to drill in, though, that we should not let down our guards. A disheartening number of Americans are still refusing to get vaccinated and we won’t be out of the woods until a few million more hesitant adults get their shots. Many of the vaccinated will still be infected with the Delta variant, but will only get mildly sick. And that’s the goal: not to eradicate this spawn of Satan virus completely but instead to weaken it so much that it presents as a cold. Despite some barriers, we are closer than we’ve ever been to ending the mass casualties that have marked every spike of the pandemic until now.

So what happens after this potentially final big wave of COVID? The virus will probably fade into the background for the vaccinated, like so many other diseases that have come before it. "This becomes a more persistent, endemic risk,” Gottlieb told CNN. “So, you continue to have coronavirus spread, but not at the same rates we're seeing right now, and it settles into… more of a seasonal pattern.” In other words, COVID will no longer be the one ruling factor over our lives all year-round, but we’ll still have to be aware that it’s there.

Of course, the end of this nightmare is contingent on more people around the world having access to vaccines so that other variants that elude immunity don’t form. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to live in a world where COVID is an afterthought. The kind of world where you walk past a CVS in early winter and see a big sign offering free COVID vaccines. The kind of world where you think: Oh yea. I almost forgot to get mine this year.