Given how life has been going the past few years, it would be unwise to declare anything with certainty like, "The pandemic is finally, truly over." But as we enter the fifth year of COVID-19, having just come through the fifth winter virus season since that stupid coronavirus upended the globe, COVID is not putting many people into the hospital anymore, at all.

People may still be getting COVID here and there, but its prevalence seems to have waned on a pretty significant scale since the peak moment of the pandemic's severity, which in California was January 2021.

We on the West Coast got the second wave of the pandemic quite hard, and then the third wave caused by the Delta variant in July/August 2021, and the fourth wave called Omicron in January 2022. As data from the California Department of Public Health shows, January 10, 2021 was the peak day for COVID hospitalizations in the state, when 54 people were hospitalized for every 100,000 residents — at a time before vaccines when the state was seeing tens of thousands of new cases each week.

The darkest line shows this virus season. Chart via CA Dept. of Public Health

And while case counts spiked here, as they did everywhere, with the Omicron variant a year later, that variant proved far less virulent, and caused a lesser spike in hospitalizations.

As of March 30, COVID-related hospitalizations were down to 0.5 per 100,000 residents in California, as the Chronicle reports, having peaked this virus season at 7 per 100,000 in January.

In fact, even though this past winter was not a particularly aggressive flu season, you were more likely to land in the hospital due to flu this year than you were due to COVID, at least in this state.

The trend is reflected nationally. As of late March, the percent of deaths in the country that were due to COVID was 1.2%, down 20% from the previous week and continuing to trend downward. COVID hospitalizations were also down 15% week over week across the nation, according to the CDC, with around 8,000 total hospitalized.

In year five of the pandemic, declaring where we stand — and whether we can even call COVID endemic yet — still isn't possible, according to experts, and for the unvaccinated and otherwise vulnerable, it remains a dangerous disease.

"I wish we had the right term to describe the current COVID-19 situation,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, local COVID soothsayer and chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine, speaking last month to the Chronicle. “It’s not a pandemic, but it’s still a significant threat. Taking a few simple steps — masking in high-risk settings, adding extra ventilation, testing when you don’t feel well, keeping up to date with vaccines, and taking Paxlovid if you get COVID and are at high risk — can make the difference between a mild illness and a severe one."

Still, Wachter's Xitter account, which was once a daily font of COVID statistics and words of caution, has gone back to being about medicine generally, discussing diabetes and other diseases. Also, a traditional annual music night at his home, where UCSF residents are invited to play, resumed this spring after a four-year pandemic hiatus.