As the US battles the unabated rise of coronavirus cases as well as deaths, a new study from Minnesota-based Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) has said that ACOVID-19 virus may well last 18 to 24 months, especially given that only 5 per cent to 15 per cent of the US population is likely infected at this point.
The coronavirus cases increased to 1,070,032 with over 63,000 deaths in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In the report titled “The future of the COVID-19 pandemic: lessons learned from pandemic influenza,” the researchers paint a grip picture of the pandemic and detail how it’s behaving more like past influenza pandemics than like any coronavirus has to date.
“States, territories, and tribal health authorities should plan for the worst-case scenario (which involves a large second peak of cases in the fall of 2020), including no vaccine availability or herd immunity,” said the report.
Government agencies and healthcare delivery organizations should develop strategies to ensure adequate protection for healthcare workers when disease incidence surges.
“Government officials should develop concrete plans, including triggers for reinstituting mitigation measures, for dealing with disease peaks when they occur,” said the recommendations in the report.
Risk communication messaging from government officials should incorporate the concept that this “pandemic will not be over soon and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of disease over the next 2 years”.
“No one knows exactly how this virus will behave. But, based on what scientists have recorded so far and on previous influenza pandemics, the report illustrates some of the possibilities,” it said.
In scenario one, the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a series of repetitive smaller waves that occur through the summer and then consistently over a one- to two-year period, gradually diminishing sometime in 2021.
In the second scenario, the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a larger wave in the fall or winter of 2020 and one or more smaller subsequent waves in 2021.
“This pattern will require the reinstitution of mitigation measures in the fall in an attempt to drive down spread of infection and prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. This pattern is similar to what was seen with the 1918-19 pandemic,” said the report.
In the third scenario, the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a “slow burn” of ongoing transmission and case occurrence, but without a clear wave pattern.
“Again, this pattern may vary somewhat geographically and may be influenced by the degree of mitigation measures in place in various areas,” said the report.
“While this third pattern was not seen with past influenza pandemics, it remains a possibility for COVID-19. This third scenario likely would not require the reinstitution of mitigation measures, although cases and deaths will continue to occur,” it added.
Whichever scenario the pandemic follows (assuming at least some level of ongoing mitigation measures), the report said that “we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant COVID-19 activity, with hotspots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas”.
As the pandemic wanes, it is likely that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to circulate in the human population and will synchronize to a seasonal pattern with diminished severity over time, as with other less pathogenic coronaviruses, the report warned.