Local expert explains the future for COVID-19

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 6:13 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Data from Johns Hopkins University says one in five Americans have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and the Valley continues to report high case numbers.

Those high infection rates, along with effective vaccines, leads some experts to believe we could reach an endemic phase of COVID-19. That would mean there’s a low level of activity with a virus and only sporadic cases, according to Dr. Bill Petri, Professor of Infectious Disease at the University of Virginia.

“The hope is that the COVID-19 virus will become another endemic virus, maybe like a very severe common cold virus,” Petri said.

Petri said sporadic flu cases also represent an endemic virus. He said that phase could come with immunity from vaccine and prior infection.

“If for no other reason it will be the combination of having so many people vaccinated till we’re up to 60-70% of Americans to receive both doses of the vaccine, and, unfortunately, with 800,000 people infected every day, people are going to have some immunity from just having suffered from omicron,” he said.

However, there’s a possibility variants could keep the pandemic from making that transition.

“We’re always going to have this potential for a new variant to arise, especially if it can evade the immune system better than omicron,” Petri said.

He said it is possible to eliminate COVID-19.

Petri works with the World Health Organization’s program to eliminate polio, and he said they’re very close to their goal because of global efforts at mass vaccination. He said it’s important to note those efforts have been in place for 30 years.

“There’s only been four cases of polio in the world in the last year, so that is possible,” he said.

UVA projects this surge of COVID-19 will end next week.

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