We looked at the ways COVID-19 has changed our lives and how it will continue to affect public health in 2022. Over two years ago, COVID-19 rapidly spread across the globe, changing the fabric of society. Masking has become the norm. Reports of newly-discovered variants crop up every few months. Many are battling COVID-induced brain fog and debilitating
Over two years ago, COVID-19 rapidly spread across the globe, changing the fabric of society. Masking has become the norm. Reports of newly-discovered variants crop up every few months. Many are battling COVID-induced brain fog and debilitating fatigue. Others are struggling to find ways to cope with grief and loneliness. Some would argue these changes may last forever.
In a short series, Verywell looks back at the ways COVID-19 has changed our lives. Our reporters asked the experts how the virus will continue to affect public health in 2022.
Alpha. Delta. Omicron. The Greek alphabet almost doesn't seem long enough to keep up with the ever-emerging COVID-19 variants. Over the course of 2021, new variants consistently appeared with varying degrees of alarm. Is this what lies ahead for us in 2022 as well?
What we learned: The state of the pandemic is dependent on global cooperation. Experts say vaccines need to be distributed everywhere to help minimize mutations.
What to expect: We can expect that variants will develop as long as the virus is able to mutate. So, we'll likely see a few more variants in 2022. But it's difficult to tell whether they will be milder than previous strains.
At the beginning of the pandemic, masks were our primary line of defense. As vaccinations came into the picture, mask guidelines began to loosen. But surges seem to always bring us back to square one.
What we learned: Mask recommendations are often in flux because the government has to adjust to emerging research and constantly-changing case counts.
What to expect: The habit of mask-wearing might take hold in the U.S., even after the threat of COVID has subsided, to protect against other illnesses like the flu. But there's still no end in sight to masking up.
Eradicating COVID-19 entirely is no longer a realistic goal. Instead, the hope is the virus can look a bit like the flu—always around but much less dangerous.
What we learned: Though comparisons between the two are often made, COVID-19 is still much more severe and unpredictable than the flu.
What to expect: Viruses want to evolve to be mild enough to survive and continue replicating, which leads to milder illness in humans. So Omicron's emergence is a good sign. Still, no one knows how long until COVID-19 is considered endemic, like the flu.
Patients and researchers alike have been searching for clues about what causes long COVID and how to treat it for the past two years. Still, long COVID raises more questions than answers.
What we learned: In 2021, researchers made significant advancements when it comes to understanding long COVID. Drugs for different diseases were repurposed as treatments. And we gained a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind some of these lingering symptoms, like previous EBV infections reactivating.
What to expect: There is still plenty of progress to be made. Long-haulers want to see more collaboration within the medical community in understanding the condition.
If this pandemic has had a silver lining, it’s the fact that many more people are now aware of the importance of mental health. Unfortunately, that's in part because people have been struggling with isolation, addiction, and grief.
What we learned: Many people reported feeling anxious and depressed last year. This was especially true for people living in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, and for healthcare workers.
What to expect: Hopefully, people continue to prioritize mental well-being in the new year. The rise of digital mental health services and online substance use treatment makes accessing care easier—and in turn, reduces stigma.