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US must prepare for 2-year battle with corona: Report

Washington: As the country battles the invisible enemy, a new study from Minnesota-based Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) has said that COVID-19 virus may well last 18 to 24 months, especially given that only 5-15% of the US population is likely infected at this point.

The coronavirus cases in the US crossed one million by Monday with over 60,000 deaths, 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 grim 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.

The report recommends that 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”.

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.

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.

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