Demand for COVID-19 prompts questions about its pandemic status

Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 10:38 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Just months ago, COVID-19 supplies such as masks and at-home tests were tough to come by, but recently, demand for these supplies has dropped off rather quickly.

“We’ve seen demand decrease substantially, I’d say 95% less than we had before as far as masks, and COVID tests, and the vaccines have really dropped off,” said Philip Hommerding, a pharmacist and owner of Hunt’s Pharmacy in Rochester.

After getting dozens of daily appointments in December and January, a pharmacy like Hunt’s now sees fewer than a handful of vaccination appointments every day.

“Even a few months ago, when people were getting the boosters, it was many shots a day versus, maybe one or two every day now, so it has really decreased in people’s need for the vaccines and tests,” said Hommerding.

Olmsted County does have a particularly high vaccination rate, which would tie into vaccine demand dropping off.

“Our community is doing really really well,” said Meagan Sherden, a lead epidemiologist at Olmsted County Public Health.

However, masking and testing demand has also dropped off. Public health officials attribute the change partly to updated pandemic guidance.

“We’re really looking at that local transmission level, that local background activity and spikes above that,” said Dr. John O’Horo, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic.

“Moving from looking at just community transmission in things, but really looking at more severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths,” said Sherden.

So then, is COVID-19 no longer a pandemic?

Public health officials and infectious disease specialists say pump the brakes. Even though nationwide trends in terms of hospitalizations and deaths are encouraging, more research and information is needed first.

“We don’t have any real experience with COVID to say what does it look like outside of a pandemic to define that,” said O’Horo. “Determining what that background level is will require some real research in looking at these numbers.”

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