The CCP virus pandemic could last until 2022, according to a new report by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), which predicted three possible scenarios of varying severity.
A group of researchers at the center, headed by Dr. Kristine A. Moore, medical director at the University of Minnesota center, and including pandemic experts from Harvard and Tulane universities, found that, based on the most recent flu pandemics, the current outbreak will likely last 18 to 24 months and is unlikely to stop until 60 to 70 percent of the population is immune.
The experts gave three scenarios of how the virus might progress.
The first scenario was that the current wave of COVID-19 might be 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. The waves may vary geographically and depend on what mitigation measures are in place and how they are eased, the report stated. These waves could require the periodic reinstitution of measures such as lockdowns and social distancing regulations over the next 1 to 2 years, depending on the height of the wave peaks.
The second scenario was that the current wave of COVID-19 might be followed by an even larger wave in the fall or winter of this year, and one or more smaller waves in 2021. In this case, the report said, lockdowns and social distancing measures would need to be reinstituted in the fall in an attempt to drive down the spread of the virus and prevent health care systems from being overwhelmed. This pattern is similar to what occurred in the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic and the 1957–58 pandemic.
The third and final scenario projected by the report was that the first wave of the virus infections might be followed by a “slow burn” of ongoing transmission and case occurrence, but this time without any 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. However, it would not require the reinstitution of mitigation measures, although cases and deaths would continue to occur. “While this third pattern was not seen with past influenza pandemics, it remains a possibility for COVID-19,” the report stated.
“Whichever scenario the pandemic follows (assuming at least some level of ongoing mitigation measures), we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant COVID-19 activity, with hot spots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas,” the researchers wrote.
“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, such as the betacoronaviruses OC43 and HKU1, and past pandemic influenza viruses have done.”
A vaccine will likely not be available until at least sometime in 2021, the researchers noted, adding that it’s unclear “what kinds of challenges could arise during vaccine development that could delay the timeline.”
Researchers also provided recommendations for states, territories, and tribal health authorities, urging them to plan for “the worst-case scenario,” including no vaccine availability or herd immunity, while government agencies and health care delivery organizations were urged to develop strategies to ensure adequate protection for health care workers when disease incidence surges.
Government officials were also advised to develop “concrete plans,” including triggers for reinstituting mitigation measures, for dealing with disease peaks when they occur, and should communicate to the public that this pandemic will not be over soon and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of the disease over the next two years.
Dr. Mike Osterholm, director of CIDRAP, University of Minnesota regents professor, who authored the report, reiterated the findings during an interview with CNN on May 1, saying that “this thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people,” and that “the idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology.”