Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in the US are now declining, but wary experts forecast a very possible, sudden reversal in circumstances. Simply put, this decline in numbers cannot yet be relied upon to indicate a near exit from the pandemic.
Over the course of the next three to four months, another 130,000 Americans are expected to lose their lives to the deadly virus, according to a recent expert forecast. And this particular forecast comes from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
Experts have pointed to a combination of four factors that will determine the course of the pandemic in the next couple of months.
These factors are:
- Increasing vaccinations
- Declining seasonality
- The spread of the B.1.1.7 variant
- People becoming less and less precautious about following safety measures
The first two factors — increased vaccinations and the change in seasonality, (now that we’re coming out of the hard winter months) — will steadily contribute to reduced transmissions through spring and summer.
The latter two factors, however, are where making future predictions gets tricky.
One of these factors is the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant— the variant that was first identified in the UK — that health officials have forecasted could become the main strain in the US by spring. And not surprisingly, over 980 cases of this particular strain have already been identified across 37 states.
The fourth factor, which the IHME describes as “increased behaviors conducive to the spread of Covid-19” is one that depends on us Americans as a precautious/not precautious community. The team explained this factor in the following words,
“Transmission has been contained over the winter through mask-wearing, decreased mobility, and avoidance of high-risk settings such as indoor dining. As daily case counts decline and vaccination increases, behaviors are likely to change towards increased risk of transmission."
While more and more governors look to relaxing and loosening Covid-19 restrictions, health officials and experts warn that now is not the time to let our guards down.
And though there is no doubt that declining numbers are great news, Medical Analyst Dr. Leanna Wen expresses her concerns in the following words.
“I'm also very worried about these variants because we have seen in other countries what happens when there is an explosive spread of these more contagious variants.”
Dr. Wen then suggested we still continue taking precautious measures. She said,
“I think it's really critical for us to ramp up vaccinations as much as we can, and in the meantime, do our best to continue with masking, physical distancing -- these other measures that we know to be really important in controlling the spread of infection.”
America’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci has consistently expressed similar views. In fact, Fauci believes that when the time comes to relax, we’ll have to be very cautious about doing so very “prudently and gradually.”
But that time is certainly not here yet. For those of us who want to know how much longer we’ll be wearing face-masks, Fauci says,
“I think we will be wearing masks for several, several months into the future.”
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