CHARLESTON — The World Health Organization announced Friday that COVID is no longer a public health emergency.
“The emergency is over, but we have started many initiatives to prepare the world, and we need to continue that — that commitment,” World Health Organization Director General Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Friday’s announcement.
MetroNews asked West Virginia Coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh what the elimination of the designation, which has been in effect for three years, means.
“It means COVID is no longer a driver of a an unpredictable infectious disease pandemic that causes many people to die or be hospitalized,” Marsh said.
The U.S. designation of COVID as a national emergency ends May 11.
Marsh credits “the tools we have at our disposal, including vaccines and medications that reduce the impact, and because of the number of people who have had it and recovered.”
Marsh said about 90% to 95% of the U.S. population has immune protection from COVID.
“COVID is still an infectious disease and highly spreadable and in certain populations can still be deadly,” Marsh said. “Especially those over 65 and are immunocompromised.”
WHO Emergency Health Programs Executive Director Dr. Michael Ryan said people will continue to get sick from COVID.
“We fully expect that this virus will continue to transmit, and this is the history of pandemics. If we look at — It took decades for the final throes of the pandemic virus of 1918 to disappear,” Ryan said.
Marsh said there are currently about 1,900 people hospitalized with COVID and approximately 190 people die daily across the U.S. He said those are the lowest numbers in months.
“It really reminds us how very fortunate we are to live in a time where we do effective and safe vaccines, where we have medications to allow us to survive even if we are infected,” Marsh said.
Marsh said the tools created during the pandemic must not be ignored heading into the future.
“We need to continue to use those tools in ways that continue to protect us and continue to develop new tools,” Marsh said. “Because just as COVID came and impacted us, so will some other infection in the future.”
The pandemic was also proof, according to Marsh, of the interconnectivity of the citizens of the world.
“We learned that if an infection impacts one part of the world and it’s highly spreadable then it’s going to impact all of the world,” Marsh said.
The latest report from the state Department of Health and Human Resources said there have been 8,117 deaths in West Virginia attributed to COVID-19.