UVA doctor says light is at the end of the tunnel as COVID-19 cases decrease

UVA doctor says light is at the end of the tunnel as COVID-19 cases decrease
UVA Medical Center. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Some doctors at the University of Virginia say we could see a glimpse of pre-pandemic life as early as this summer, that is if we don’t let our guard down.

“We are at the point where we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. So within several months - if we can make this collective effort to do that - I think this spring and into this summer looks a little bit different, UVA Health Director of Hospital Epidemiology Dr. Costi Sifri said.

Positive coronavirus cases in the commonwealth have been decreasing over the past few weeks. Sifri says vaccination efforts are just one reason why.

“Even the people that received vaccine, even as we started that around the holidays and through January, it still takes a little bit of time to respond to the vaccine,” Sifri said. “So while I think the vaccine, while it may be helping now and is going to be a real critical part moving forward, I think our reduced case counts were occurring before that happened.”

Mitigation efforts advised by health officials since the start of the pandemic - like wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands - still play a significant role in the decrease in cases, Sifri explained.

“I think the efforts that were made once we had the spike, in terms of people’s behavior - wearing masks, being very careful about their contacts and again, social distancing, avoiding crowded indoor places - that is probably, I think, the most significant reason why things have changed,” he said.

However, as new variants like the South African one make their way to our area, Sifri says now is not the time for public health measures to ease up.

“We had a pretty steep and steady decline over the last four to six weeks, but that’s stopped now and it’s raising the concern that perhaps that there may be other factors like new variants that lead to more easy transmission,” Sifri said. “If we throw off our masks and stop practicing these, I think we are at risk for another wave.”

As vaccinations with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine began Friday, March 5, throughout the commonwealth, Sifri mentioned that people who are eligible to get a vaccine should be open to getting the single-dose shot, and should take whatever becomes available to them first.

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