COVID will be with us always, in one form or another.

That realization, based on evidence and, yes, science, isn’t news. Yet finally, politicians and health experts are admitting as much. What took them so long, because something tells me they, too, knew long ago that COVID would not simply disappear?

“‘We’ve understood we’re not going to be able to eliminate the virus,’ Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco,” told The Wall Street Journal.

No kidding.

Personal choices regarding masks, gatherings, etc., aside, Americans — at least according to one national poll — understand COVID is just one more virus to pack among a long list of maladies and myriad other sources of anxiety.

Health experts simply try to play by the rules, which, they tell us, are grounded in science and data analysis. They deal in worst-case scenarios, which, when articulated, are inherently pessimistic and too often sound apocalyptic. Such was the case with COVID, although the alphabet soup of public health agencies — CDC, WHO, NIH — should be held to account for the oft-contradictory and even sometimes nonsensical guidance. Still, I’ll give health experts, on the whole, a qualified pass. 

The politicians, the so-called leaders who espoused altruistic messages about stopping the spread and keeping us safe, should get no such reprieve. The mantra among politicians now, on literally a global scale, is that we should accept the virus as a proverbial fact of life.

“Health officials everywhere, many for the first time, are forgoing some of the sharpest tools they have to combat Omicron —even as infections soar,” writes the WSJ. “They are accepting the virus like never before to minimize disruptions to economies, education and everyday life.”

Federal money for COVID programs has dwindled, and people — most of us, anyway — finally understand we can’t empower elected and non-elected officials to “keep us safe,” because that’s up to us. Elections are coming, too, so politicians aren’t eager to step back into the COVID quagmire.

The aforementioned poll, from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, shows that few — just 15% — say they’ll consider the pandemic over only when COVID-19 is largely eliminated, the news service writes. “By contrast, 83% say they’ll feel the pandemic is over when it’s largely a mild illness.” 

Are we not there?

The poll, the AP says, shows 59% of Americans think it’s essential that they personally be vaccinated against COVID-19 to feel safe participating in public activities. “But, underscoring what authorities call alarmingly low COVID-19 vaccination rates in U.S. children ages 5 to 11, just 37% of parents consider it essential that their children are vaccinated before they return to normal. Just 47% of Americans think it’s essential that they get one.

Thankfully, we’re still free to make our own decisions. Still free to decide, “Enough is enough.”

Conservative lawmakers, too, are tired of mandates and edicts that are mostly coming from the left.

“In 14 statehouses with Republican governors, including Georgia, Missouri and Alaska,” the WSJ writes, “there is proposed legislation to bar, or tighten restrictions against, COVID-19 vaccination requirements for attending public and private K-12 schools, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy, which is tracking the bills. 

Fifteen states already have laws or executive orders in place barring such a requirement for school children, the newspaper says. North Carolina has no such mandate, and talk of requiring 17-year-olds to get a COVID shot was silenced fairly quickly.

COVID infections in North Carolina have decreased dramatically in just the past week, falling from nearly 29,000 on Jan. 27 to about 7,300 on Jan. 31, although the number of people hospitalized who tested positive for COVID remains flat. And, again, everyone entering a hospital is tested for the virus. Whether people are there because of COVID, or because of a stress fracture in a foot and, subsequently, there with COVID is mostly indiscernible, though some hospitals have started tracking those patients, Healthline reports.

Omicron, for parts of the country, is waning just in time for another variant to emerge. The new variant, BA.2, will probably also spread rapidly, maybe even more so than Omicron.

So be it.