BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — As Omicron spreads, health officials are calling for a shift in the way we look at COVID case data.

“Data is not helpful unless it gives us information,” Adventist Health Bakersfield chief medical officer Dr. Ghassan Jamaleddine said. “And information has to give us knowledge that will help us to act on it.” 

The shift — away from total case counts as a COVID metric and towards hospitalizations — isn’t just an adjustment in our interpretation of the numbers. It signals a turning point in the pandemic itself.

“As many scientists, epidemiologists start to discuss whether counting cases is relevant anymore, it tells us that we are starting to shift the paradigm,” pediatrician Dr. Nimisha Amin said.

“We are at this pivoting point,” Jamaleddine said. “COVID is shifting towards becoming more of an endemic.”

Endemic diseases are those like the seasonal flu: constantly present in a population, but rarely causing massive healthcare crises. Officials agree, COVID is not going away.

“There should be some prevalence of COVID around us at all times for years to come,” Kern Medical CMO Dr. Glenn Goldis said.

That said, Omicron is the closest variant we’ve seen to the high transmissibility and low severity of other endemic diseases.

“I’d like to say that COVID will look like the flu,” Amin said.

Though officials are careful to remind us we’re not out of the woods yet.

“If we really build immunity with this infection it might be a good thing — if it doesn’t exhaust and kill many people,” Jamaleddine said.

Doctors across Kern County continue to urge the importance of vaccination and masking, as healthcare systems continue to be overwhelmed.