Even as New Jersey seems to be coming out of this latest COVID outbreak powered by the omicron variant, many believe this latest wave is far from the last.

In regards to COVID, more than 8-in-10 Americans believe we will "be stuck with it forever."

A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that few -- just 15% -- say they'll consider the pandemic over only when COVID-19 is largely eliminated. By contrast, 83% say they'll feel the pandemic is over when it's largely a mild illness.

There is growing evidence that is the case with omicron.

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While New Jersey did see a surge in new cases and a spike in hospitalizations since the last holiday season, those numbers have quickly come down.

New Jersey reported just 4,459 new positive tests on Wednesday. Two weeks ago the state was averaging well over 20,000 per day.

Hospitalizations have also dropped to 4,085, but health officials now admit the majority of those patients were admitted for something other than COVID, then tested positive for the virus.

Case loads have also been dropping nationwide.

Dr. Ed Lifshitz, the director of communicable disease services for the New Jersey Health Department, was asked this week if the pandemic was coming to an end.

He said nobody should expect COVID to simply stop circulating at some point.

“I think there will be other variants that will come," Lifshitz said, "How bad will they be, again, anybody’s guess."

More Americans are taking greater precautions.

64% in the AP Poll now say they are always or often avoiding large groups and 65% are wearing face masks around others, both up from 57% in December. Sixty percent say they are regularly avoiding nonessential travel, up from 53% one month ago. That level of precaution is the highest since last spring, before millions of Americans were fully vaccinated.

Vaccination rates in New Jersey, and the US as a whole, remain generally high, but this latest survey does show some disparity. That is especially true for younger age groups and children.

Just 37% of parents consider it essential that their children are vaccinated before they return to normal. And although boosters provide significantly better protection against COVID-19, especially the omicron variant, than a two-shot course of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, just 47% of Americans think it's essential that they get one.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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