The COVID-19 has tested us in too many ways to count and taken from us in ways we may never recover. And while the past 15 months have offered brief glimmers of hope, new hurdles such as the Delta variant seem to have extended the estimates on when the pandemic might finally start winding down for good. And according to one expert, it could still be several months before we can finally “turn the corner” with COVID and begin to go back to normal once and for all.
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While some experts predict that cases from the recent surge will peak sometime in October, the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant likely means we won’t see the pandemic really winding down this year. “I don’t think we’re really going to turn the corner until next spring,” Celine Gounder, MD, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City, told The New York Times.
Gounder added that while they won’t be as severe as the ones experienced last year, we’ll most likely see another set of surges over major holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s as people congregate indoors. She also points out that the return of students to the classroom provides a new way of spreading the virus that wasn’t seen during earlier phases of the pandemic.
“A lot of schools across the country are just not taking this very seriously this year,” Gounder told The Times. “So you will see transmission from schools back into the community.”
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Other experts echoed the prediction that certain areas might see different waves of infection than others depending on vaccine rollout. “The nature of Delta transmission means that the cases are going to go up in a lot of places at around the same time, but the consequences will be much, much worse in terms of absolute numbers in places with less vaccination,” Bill Hanage, MD, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Times.
Other top health officials have recently predicted that it may take months for the pandemic to change its trajectory. During an Aug. 23 interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, took an opportunity to correct a previous statement he had made during an NPR interview, clarifying that “I hope we could start to get some good control in the spring of 2022.”
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When Cooper pressed Fauci about what having “control” of COVID really means, he said having “a degree of overall blanket protection of the community.” He added, “If we can get through this winter and get, really, the majority—overwhelming majority—of the 90 million people who have not been vaccinated, vaccinated, I hope we can start to get some good control in the spring of 2022.”
Fauci said that achieving such goals could finally mean a return to life as we knew it before the pandemic. “As we get into the spring, we could start getting back to a degree of normality, namely reassuming the things that we were hoping we could do—restaurants, theaters, that kind of thing,” he predicted.
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