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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of people across the globe, resulting in millions of deaths, nationwide lockdowns, and horrific economic recessions. As American life has been brought to a standstill, many people are clamoring to figure out when things will get back to “normal.”
COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruptions to our way of life, and many of us are feeling the itch to resume “business as usual.” However, due to the nature of a global pandemic, whatever the future holds for us is unlikely to be as simple as “getting back to normal.”
Our staff at Optimum is feeling the stress of the changes and the anxiety of wanting to get back to normal as well. In these difficult times, it is important to know the facts about the virus and what our lives may look like over the next few months.
Is There a Timeline?
The question on everyone’s mind is, “When can we get back to normal?” Many of us are looking for answers about how long the pandemic will be affecting our lives, but the answer isn’t so straightforward. Scientists have estimated that it will be safe to lift all social distancing regulations when 60% to 80% of the world’s population is resistant to COVID-19, limiting the disease’s spread. Because there’s no way to know how long it will take for that to happen, the point at which it will be safe to lift restrictions is a moving target that is reassessed on a daily basis.
Experts vary on how long it will take for the global population to develop the necessary levels of immunity, but they are united in their belief that strict regulations should be kept in place in the meantime. England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenny Harries explained it this way: “…as a nation, we have to be really, really responsible and keep doing what we’re all doing until we’re sure we can gradually start lifting various interventions which are likely to be spaced…until we gradually come back to a normal way of living.”
The population-level immunity necessary to lift all social distancing regulations, also known as “herd immunity,” can be achieved in one of two ways. The preferable method is through the development of a vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, explained that eradicating COVID-19 may actually require the development of several different vaccines. Immunity through vaccines is the safest way to limit the spread of the virus, but developing one is a lengthy and uncertain process.
As of writing this, there are currently over 100 vaccines under development across the world with more scientists working harder than ever before to find one that works. Twelve of those vaccines are already in the clinical trial phase, including one particularly promising one from Oxford University that could be ready by fall 2020. However, even if one of those vaccines turns out to be effective, the FDA approval process for vaccines typically takes at least, leading many experts to believe we won’t be back to “normal” until 2021.
The other way to reach herd immunity is to wait for the virus to work its way through the population. This option would leave many dead but would also leave many people immune after contracting the virus and then recovering. Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at UC Irvine, described people who recover from the virus and develop immunity to it as “Teflon,” meaning they can’t contract it again and they won’t pass it on to anyone else.
Unfortunately, because of how fast the virus spreads, this method would claim a terrifying number of lives, so scientists are focused on finding a vaccine. No matter what path we end up following, the end is likely a ways off: scientists estimate that either path would result in a year or two of restrictions, though normalcy would return in phases.
Once we reach the immunity levels necessary to safely start easing restrictions, we won’t be swan diving right back into the way things were before. Scientists, doctors, and politicians around the world agree that the reopening process will occur gradually, bit by bit, so as not to trigger any infection flares. Canadian Health Minister John Haggie explained, “Having said that, we as a government have been having discussions about how a gradual and very staged relaxation of these restrictions and orders could come about. It would be key again to rely on isolation and identification of COVID-19.”
In the United States, we are slowly moving into the first phase of reopening. Businesses and retail stores are phasing in their re-openings even with the physical distancing measures still in place. Even as we slowly begin to experience some normalcy, it is important to maintain hygiene, cleanliness, and social distancing. Nationwide lockdowns flattened the curve in some ways, but suffice it to say that the coast is not clear yet!
As we begin the process of re-opening in a responsible manner, our staff at Optimum knows that many of us will still be struggling with stress and anxiety. It is more important than ever, for the health of our bodies and minds, to stay hydrated. To find out more about how Optimum can support you during this time, visit our website today.