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Virus Experts Predicts What Happens Next

“First, infections are likely to decline in upcoming weeks.”
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

COVID cases are peaking in much of America, as the Omicron surge burns itself out (sending mostly unvaccinated people to the hospital). So what will come next? Can we all soon take off our masks and "return to normal"? Will we have to "learn to live with the virus"? Will there be another surge? Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted his predictions for what's to come next. Read on for 6 pieces of life-saving advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Virus Expert Predicts Infections Will "Decline in Upcoming Weeks"

Nurse wearing a facemask while checking on a patient at the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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"We're in a transition moment in this pandemic," wrote Jha. "We're coming off highs of the worst surge of infections we've ever had. Cases are high but starting to fall in much of the nation. This moment raises lots of questions. With one big one: What happens next?" He continued: "As Yogi Berra once said, It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. So we should be circumspect about how much we can predict with certainty. But some things seem pretty reasonable to assume. First, infections are likely to decline in upcoming weeks."

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2

Virus Expert Says We'll Have a Lot of People With High Immunity

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Jha showed "wastewater data from Massachusetts. Infections are falling fast. Expect to get to pre-Omicron surge levels within a week or two. The rest of the nation will soon follow. And by Mid-February, infections should be relatively low across much of the nation. Why low? Because of high levels of population immunity. Probably 100M to 120M people will have gotten infected in the omicron surge. And with about 90M folks also boosted. We have a lot of people with relatively high degree of immunity for the next few months."

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3

So What Should We Do?

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"Given the likely upcoming reprieve, what should we do?" asked Jha. "As case numbers fall AND hospital capacity improves meaningfully, we should relax public health restrictions including relaxing mask mandates and indoor gathering limits. Why not leave them on? Because mandates are costly and should be used sparingly. And because during future surges, we may need to ask people to pull back or mask up again. Preserving people's willingness to do things is critical. Also, we should use the reprieve to prepare. Why?" Read on.

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4

Virus Expert Predicts New Variant Will Come

Biotechnology scientist in ppe suit researching DNA in laboratory using microscope. team examining virus evolution using high tech for scientific research of vaccine development against covid19
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Why prepare? "Because, the big questions are: Will there be another summer surge in the South as weather gets hot, people head indoors? I suspect yes," said Jha. " Will there be another surge next winter in the North as the weather gets cold? I suspect yes. Will there be another variant? I suspect yes. So as we pull back on public health restrictions, we must begin to prepare for future surges—whether its omicron, delta, or another variant. Obviously, I hope there won't be future surges. Or surges won't matter (because of our high pop immunity). But hope is not a strategy."

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5

So Here's How to Prepare

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"So prepare we must. How?" asks Jha:

  1. "Vaccines. Current ones are terrific. But let's continue to develop new ones. Like ones that cover multiple variants or are pancoronaviruses or generate better mucosal immunity. And commit to building lots of doses early. Operation Warp Speed 2.0.
  2. Testing. There is still a testing shortage…though getting better. Within a month, there will be a glut of tests. And if no one buys them, manufacturers will stop making them. So time for US government to commit to buying, storing billions of tests to use in the next surge.
  3. Therapeutics. We don't have enough therapeutic doses. Time to build up a large supply of orals (Pfizer, Merck), iv antivirals (remdesivir) and monoclonals. 
  4. Masks. Lets replenish strategic reserve of masks
  5. Ventilation. Put more emphasis on indoor ventilation/filtration
  6. And last but not least: Focus on global vaccinations. Soon, the roadblock won't be vaccine doses. It'll be syringes, needles, cold storage, personnel and lack of demand due to misinformation. We must combat all of these and help get the world vaccinated."

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6

Be Ready, Be Safe

A mid adult woman protects herself by placing an N95 face mask over her nose and mouth.
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"If we prepare, no matter what surge happens, we can be ready," said Dr. Jha. "With tests and mask and therapeutics and a well-vaccinated population, we'll manage future surges without large disruptions to our lives or livelihoods. We can't predict what SARS-CoV2 will do. But we can prepare." So follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; wear an N95 face mask; avoid large crowds; practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more
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