Virus Expert Just Predicted When Pandemic Will End
By now most people have pandemic fatigue and are over dealing with COVID, but COVID isn't done with us. Cases are rising in some areas and hospitals in a few states are starting to fill up again with COVID patients. So when will this be over? Eat This, Not That! Health talked to infectious disease experts who explained what needs to be done in order for the pandemic to end. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
How is This Pandemic Going to End?
Dr. Meghan A. May, M.S., Ph.D. Professor – Microbiology and Infectious Diseases University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine Center of Excellence for Public Health says, "This is very much an open question, because the road to the end — and what that end will look like — depends entirely on the actions we take now. Will the end be periods of COVID-19 absence followed by periodic outbreaks? Will it be low-level endemicity, where we expect a certain number of COVID-19 cases each year the way we do for influenza? It depends on our actions."
According to Dr. May, "We had an initial goal of having 70% of the US vaccinated in order to quell the pandemic last winter, but we now know that that goal is likely not enough. We were not counting on highly transmissible new variants, which need a higher proportion of immune people in order to stop community spread. We also were not anticipating how drastically different vaccination rates would be in different communities, states, and regions. If one community has 95% of its residents vaccinated, and another has only 20% vaccinated, residents in each community will have a very different risk of continued COVID-19 spread. We also have different levels of non-vaccine mitigation such as mask mandates across the country, and this further complicates predictions. These are just factors that are at play in the United States."
What Needs to Be Done to End the Pandemic?
Infectious disease expert and pioneering scientific researcher Dr. Serhat Gumrukcu says, "Increasing production of and access to vaccines whole wide, especially to lower income countries, is essential to helping end the pandemic sooner rather than later. The faster this can be done, the less susceptible we will be to other variants as they emerge and jeopardize the progress being made in the US and other countries.
Additionally, we urgently need to develop a treatment that's effective against all potential variants so that we can significantly reduce transmission rates.
Although there are several treatments currently available, those options can be difficult and costly to produce and administer since they require injection through the vein. Pills capable of stopping the virus from replicating inside the body could also be available soon. However, while they could protect us against severe reactions to the virus, they might not be as effective at stopping the spread of the virus."
Dr. May adds, "It is not impossible that COVID-19 will be eliminated from the human population, but it would take substantially greater efforts that are currently occurring such as the vaccine uptake must be higher, both in countries with access (where hesitation is the major hurdle) and without (where lack of vaccine doses is the major hurdle). That's the end game, and it still may not be enough. Complete elimination is highly unlikely the more time passes.
We would also need to have a firm understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 entered the human population so as to prevent such an introduction from happening again."
How Effective are Travel Bans and Will They Help End the Pandemic?
According to Dr. May, "Travel bans are not an effective long-term solution. As we saw with Omicron, the variant had already spread well beyond southern African countries when the ban was initiated, and so it accomplished very little. However, there are real-world consequences to travel bans, such as the inability of restricted countries to import medications and supplies, and a discouragement of international cooperation if the consequence is perceived as a punishment."
What Will Life Look Like if the Pandemic Doesn't End?
"We will continue to see COVID cases, and we continue to need to do community mitigation until vaccines are available for all ages," Dr. May says. "Once they are, we can evaluate if/how often booster doses or dosages modified to cover new variants are needed so as to resume normalcy safely."
What Can People Do to Help End the Pandemic?
Robert G. Lahita MD, Ph.D. ("Dr. Bob"), Director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health and author of the upcoming book Immunity Strong states, "As far as what people need to do, I will say it again: wash your hands, wear a mask, get vaccinated, and educate yourself on how immunity and vaccines REALLY work to avoid disinformation and lies. To people who are still skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, I would say this: if you're not vaccinated you will likely get Covid at some point here. Eventually, it's going to happen, and you may not survive. This virus is going to go through the population especially now because it's cold and people are clumping together. We are seeing more cases pop up, and the numbers are likely going to go through the roof."
When Will the Pandemic End?
Dr. Bob says, "I can theoretically say that the pandemic will end when a very large percentage of the world's population is immunized. Being that we have only about 60% of people in the US vaccinated (as of November, 2021), I don't see it ending any time soon. We will also have more variants popping up — like Omicron appearing in South Africa, which has a lot of HIV in the population. In these individuals, the virus has an easier ability to mutate."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), 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.
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