ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As we mark one year of the coronavirus pandemic, the conversation is turning to when this will all be over so we can return to “normal” --whatever that may look like.
First, what is a pandemic? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines it as an event of disease spreading across several countries and affecting a large number of people at once. It’s worse than an outbreak or epidemic, which happens when a higher-than-expected number of people in the same place get sick.
Going by that definition, the CDC says the pandemic will be over when there are no longer widespread cases worldwide.
This isn’t our first pandemic, so we do have an idea of how our future could turn out. The last pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, infected about a third of the people on the planet. Britannica says it lasted until early Spring of 1919, coming in 3 different waves.
Based on the data we have of the number of coronavirus cases, experts have created models to give us an idea of the timeline for the end of this pandemic.
"If we maintain the current social models, and with the vaccination included, this pandemic should end by August,” said Dr. Edwin Michael, an epidemiologist with USF. He models data for the World Health Organization.
In February 2021, Dr. Michael said those models showed 30 percent of people in our area are still under restricted movement and 66 percent are consistently wearing masks and social distancing.
Herd immunity is our fastest route to the end of this pandemic. Doctors say to reach it, we need to continue speeding up the rollout of the vaccine. Until we do that, we’ll need to stick to the health and safety measures we’ve been using to keep our number of new coronavirus cases down.
"You have to ramp up vaccines so that you hit 70 percent of the people. Only then you can stop the social measures," Dr. Michael says.
Dr. Michael says vaccines help control the spread of variants of the virus. It also keeps people out of hospitals, by lessening the severity of virus, even if they still get sick.