“We’ve been told that this virus will disappear. But it will not,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and medical director of the National Foundation For Infectious Diseases, recently told CBS News.
“We need to control it. We need to diminish its impact. But it’s going to be around hassling us for the foreseeable future. And by that I mean — years,” he went on to say.
A year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the virus has infected over 118 million people and killed over 2.6 million worldwide, according to the New York Times.
Researchers say that COVID-19 will never be completely eradicated.
“It’s pretty unrealistic to think that we can eliminate a virus from both the human population and from its natural reservoirs,” Dr. Anita McElroy of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine told CBS News.
Although COVID-19 will likely be a part of our lives forever, many public health officials, including Dr. Schaffner, are worried that Americans will become too carefree.
Dr. Schaffner says that it would be best to give up the idea of life going “back to normal,” and instead embrace a “new normal” where our lives revolve around COVID-19.
To these public health officials, a “new normal” means continuing to wear masks, practicing social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings, even after a majority of Americans are vaccinated.
Many public health officials, including Dr. Fauci, are also encouraging the U.S. to use “vaccine passports,” which would allow Americans to travel or engage in other activities only if they can prove that they have been vaccinated or have recently had a negative COVID-19 test.
Vaccine passports are already being used in Israel. Only citizens that can show proof of vaccination are allowed entry to gyms, hotels, concerts, and indoor dining at restaurants.
In January, U.S. President Joe Biden directed government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of a digital vaccine passport.
Reopening is slowly happening in the US. Many states have either loosened or lifted all restrictions, contrary to the advice of public health officials.
At the moment, it’s uncertain if other states will keep restrictions in place even when the majority of the population is vaccinated.