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'This virus has been anything but predictable' | As localities shed COVID protocols, a federal health official shares how response evolves from here

Mask distribution, vaccinations, and at-home test kits remain a federal priority, as the U.S. hopes to ride the downward decline in COVID-19 spread into the endemic.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With COVID-19 protocols starting to fall away, both in the Carolinas and across the U.S., and cases and hospitalizations coming down, some might be wondering, "Is that it for the pandemic?"

Some state health officials in the Carolinas have said the recent moves away from mandated masks and wait-in-line PCR testing are just the beginning of the transition to the coronavirus being endemic, where it becomes a manageable virus society is able to live with.

RELATED: When does COVID-19 go from pandemic to endemic? There’s no statistical cut-off

Dawn O'Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, for the federal agency, the lull in COVID-19 spread is not a reason to back off those tried-and-true pandemic tools.

RELATED: DHEC announces upcoming reduction of COVID testing sites across South Carolina

"We continue to feel very good about the decrease in cases, but this virus has been anything but predictable," O'Connell said, noting that distributing free N-95s and at-home test kits and encouraging vaccinations and boosters is just as important as ever.

"We want to continue to have these tools available to the American people when and should we need them next," O'Connell added. 

Contact Vanessa Ruffes at vruffes@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions reporting on and engaging the community around the problems and solutions as they relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.

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