The new coronavirus is probably going to stay spreading for a minimum of another 18 months to 2 years—until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, a team of longstanding pandemic experts predicted during a report released Thursday.
They recommended that the US steel oneself against a worst-case scenario that has a second big wave of coronavirus infections within the fall and winter. Even during a best-case scenario, people will still die from the virus, they predicted.
“This thing’s not getting to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of individuals ,” Mike Osterholm, who directs the middle for communicable disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.
“The concept this is often getting to be done soon defies microbiology.”
Osterholm has been writing about the danger of pandemics for 20 years and has advised several presidents. He wrote the report along side Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who is additionally a top expert on pandemics; Dr. Kristine Moore, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist who is now medical director for CIDRAP; and historian John Barry, who wrote the 2004 book “The Great Influenza” about the 1918 flu pandemic.
Because Covid-19 is new, nobody has any immunity, they said. “The length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops within the human population,” they wrote.
Their predictions are different from models presented by groups like the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington or the models produced by Imperial College London, whose report predicting many deaths within the US and UK helped galvanize responses by both governments.
The CIDRAP-led team used those reports, historical data on past pandemics, and published reports about the medical details of Covid-19 to place together their forecast.
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“I have said for an extended time that once you try to know how communicable disease goes to unfold, you ought to believe history also as models,” Lipsitch told CNN. as an example , pandemic infections don’t tend to die down within the summer, like seasonal flu does., he said.
Covid-19 is most like an epidemic strain of influenza, they said.
“Because of a extended time period , more asymptomatic spread, and a better R0, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than flu,” they wrote within the report. R0 is that the average number of people infected by each patient.
“A higher R0 means more people will got to get infected and become immune before the pandemic can end,” they add. “Based on the foremost recent flu pandemics, this outbreak will likely last 18 to 24 months.”
They said officialdom should stop telling people the pandemic might be ending and instead prepare citizens for an extended haul.
Three scenarios are possible, they said:
Scenario 1: the primary wave of Covid-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a series of repetitive smaller waves that occur through the summer then consistently over a one- to two-year period, gradually diminishing sometime in 2021
Scenario 2: the primary wave of Covid-19 is followed by a bigger wave within the fall or winter and one or more smaller waves in 2021. “This pattern would require the reinstitution of mitigation measures within the fall in an effort to drive down spread of infection and stop healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” they wrote. “This pattern is analogous to what was seen with the 1918-19 pandemic.”
Scenario 3: A “slow burn” of ongoing transmission. “This third scenario likely wouldn’t require the reinstitution of mitigation measures, although cases and deaths will still occur.”
States and territories should plan for scenario 2, the worst-case scenario, they recommended.
“Government officials should develop concrete plans, including triggers for reinstituting mitigation measures, for handling disease peaks once they occur,” they advised.
Lipsitch and Osterholm both said they’re surprised by the choices many nations are making to lift restrictions aimed toward controlling the spread of the virus.
“I think it’s an experiment. It’s an experiment that likely will cost lives, especially in places that roll in the hay without careful controls to undertake to work out when to undertake to slow things down again,” Lipsitch said.
Plus, he said, some states are choosing to lift restrictions once they have more new infections than that they had once they decided to impose the restrictions.
“It is tough to even understand the rationale,” Lipsitch said.
A vaccine could help, the report said, but not quickly.
“The course of the pandemic also might be influenced by a vaccine; however, a vaccine will likely not be available until a minimum of sometime in 2021,” they wrote.
“And we do not know what sorts of challenges could arise during vaccine development that would delay the timeline.”