ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – After 311-million infections, 7.5-million hospitalizations and 5.5-million deaths, the idea of a COVID-19 free world is fading. However, there’s a new hope on the horizon — scientists say our world will likely move from a pandemic to an endemic by the end of 2022.

“What that really means is that we’re not seeing so much of a worldwide spread,” Arnot Health infectious disease expert Dr. Justin Nistico said. “[It will be more of] these pockets that are popping up here in there.”

Scientists believe the Omicron variants rapid spread is helping fuel the race towards herd immunity.

“Each time your immune system gets hit, whether it be vaccination or exposure, you have greater immunity to it,” Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean Dr. Richard Terry said. “And that’s the path towards herd immunity.”

Experts believe that herd immunity would likely create robust immunity towards future variants.

“This is the natural progression of a virus as it mutates,” Dr. Terry said. “It becomes more transmissible and less severe, and that seems to be exactly what’s happening.”

Life would ultimately look different in an endemic — Terry said lockdowns would likely be a thing of the past and mask wearing would only happening during certain months such as winter. Terry predicted the pandemic could turn to an endemic by the end of 2022.