PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It seems there’s less restrictive space when it comes to this pandemic as health authorities shift guidance and states are following suit. But how did we get here?

Dr. Chunhuei Chi, a global health professor at Oregon State University, has been tracking the pandemic closely. He said essentially time, medical advancements and natural immunity got us to this place. 

A few things happened to give the CDC the confidence to lift the mask mandate, including a decrease in cases, hospitalizations and deaths since February. Along with this, the combination of people who are vaccinated, have natural immunity or both. 

Dr. Chi said there has been a recent discovery from the CDC which shows that our population might be more immune than what was previously thought — according to Chi, studies show that Omicron, during its surge, has infected around 40% of people in the U.S.

Total infection is always larger than confirmed cases due to asymptomatic infection or people just not reporting their positive case. So the number of people infected could likely be higher. 

Dr. Chi said a pandemic like this is inherently a public responsibility.

“The strongest immunity comes from full vaccination plus recovery from previous infection. The second strongest has become people who recover from previous infection,” said Dr. Chi.

People who were fully vaccinated come after that, while those who have never been inoculated or infected have the least immunity. 

He said this information likely gave the CDC the confidence to lift restrictions – knowing 65% of people are vaccinated and some 80 % have been infected and recovered.

This doesn’t mean our hands are clean from COVID-19 forever.  Dr. Chi said health officials will likely continue to closely monitor the virus, but he believes in the future they will look more at death rates than purely infection.