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Carl Bergstrom in The New Republic on future of COVID-19 pandemic

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 - 14:00 to Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 14:00

Carl Bergstrom, UW Biology Professor, was quoted in an article in The New Republic on the future of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will it always be like this?

The science is pretty clear: SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay. It will become endemic, which means the virus will continue circulating through humans and animals in the next few years. Elimination, where the virus is almost entirely quashed, is possible, but complete eradication would take a lot of work. In fact, the world has eradicated only one infectious disease among humans: smallpox. That took about 200 years of inoculation campaigns. We now know a lot more about conducting widespread vaccination campaigns quickly, but it takes the kind of coordination and national action that few countries have seen yet.

The longer the virus continues spreading, the more likely we are to catch it, even if we’re vaccinated. The good news is, the vaccines are excellent at protecting against severe illness and death. But in my darker moments, I find myself wondering: Am I going to catch this virus eventually? And if so, should I abandon precautions now because I’m not going to be able to escape it anyway?

The experts I’ve talked to in the past few months are divided on the first question. Some experts believe that we will all catch the coronavirus at some point in our lives, while others believe it’s avoidable if we take action. But they all agree on one point: The longer we can wait to catch the virus, the better it will be for everyone. In other words, the precautions are important.

Until all children are eligible for the shot and the immune-suppressed are eligible for their additional dose—and until the spike from the delta variant subsides—timing matters. Everything we can do to protect the vulnerable from getting sick and dying, and keep health systems from collapsing, and keep ourselves from the risk of long-term symptoms and disability, we must do. And even if the virus becomes endemic, that doesn’t mean we can’t control it.

When I ask Covid experts what’s coming next, they all pause. “One of the main lessons that we’ve had so far in the pandemic is that it’s very, very hard to forecast what’s going to happen next,” Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington, told me.

Read the full article in The New Republic.

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