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I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor and Here's When This Will All Be Over

A Yale doctor offers his “best case” coronavirus scenario.
Closeup of a worried female doctor or lab scientist wearing safety glasses and blue face mask

As COVID-19 cases continue to pile up across the country, many of us are wondering when—and if—the highly infectious and potentially deadly virus is ever going to go away. According to a top Yale pathologist, the answer is no. It is going to be with us "indefinitely." 

"It's going to tail off, not end abruptly," Sheldon Campbell, MD, Ph.D., a laboratory medicine specialist at Yale Medicine and professor of laboratory medicine at Yale School of Medicine, tells Eat This, Not That! Health. "I think COVID-19 will be with us indefinitely."

'We're Unlikely to Eradicate It"

Dr. Campbell explains that despite the fact that the measles vaccine was developed in 1963 (enhanced in 1968 and MMR in '71), is "absolutely superb," fifty years later it is still not eradicated. "COVID is quite infectious, there are many asymptomatic cases to maintain it in a population, so we're unlikely to eradicate it like we did SARS," he adds. 

And while top researchers like Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci are optimistic that a vaccine will be ready in 2021, he points out that there are still a lot of questions. "Will a vaccine block transmission or merely attenuate or limit symptoms?  How many doses, how far apart? How effective will it be at preventing illness/death/transmission (each of those is a different number; the last one particularly hard to get at). And very critically, how many people will take it?" he asks. 

As far as the testing realm, his area of interest, there are a lot of ideas sparking curiosity that could significantly improve the efficiency of testing—which could be incredibly beneficial as complementary approaches to controlling the virus. "Emerging technologies might produce a self-administered test that would detect high viral loads (the most infectious state) for around a dollar. They'd not detect every positive; but maybe most highly-infectious people," he reveals.   

The Doctor's "Perhaps-Optimistic" Scenario

His best-case "perhaps-optimistic" scenario in achieving "new normal" status goes like this: 

"The country figures out that, hey, masks aren't that awful—seems to be happening now to a degree. This current surge levels off and slowly declines because of social distancing, but bursts of infection continue in various places; possibly more so come winter. The vaccine trials go well. A trickle of cheap, rapid tests is also becoming available and are used in populations without vaccine coverage. We find and isolate patients sooner. Levels of disease decline to those seen in Europe now, say. New outbreaks are quickly contained, and the country gradually moves to a 'new normal' about a year from now."

How to Avoid COVID-19

Do what the scientists say: Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

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