TAMPA, Fla. — For the near future, COVID-19 prediction models show that cases will continue to decrease in Florida.
“Cases are coming down big time,” said Dr. Edwin Michael, Professor in Epidemiology at the University of South Florida.
Researchers believe this period of lower cases will continue for a while, but then eventually rise again.
“That is depending on the duration of immunity,” said Michael.
“People are not quite recognizing the fact that because immunity is not long term and if you don’t have this fourth vaccine scheduled then a lot of people are going to lose immunity,” he added.
If people continue to wear masks as they are now and if our rate of waning immunity stays the same then researchers believe we won’t see another spike until next year.
“Then we’ll see a resurgence. That will occur only next year in the summer of next year,” said Michael.
“Because of the long tail of the epidemic there will still be people infected in the community. And what that will do is you’ll get resurgences even in the future. So this is not going away,” he added.
The good news is the data show the spike won’t be as big as the omicron wave, which peaked around 84,000 cases per day.
“The coming peaks will be about 16,000 at peak cases to 18,000 cases,” said Michael.
However, if we lift all current social measures and no one wears a mask anymore, then the models show the next wave will come sooner.
“That’ll occur like in February. February and March,” said Michael.
Researchers say these spikes are to be expected because our immunity is waning.
“I think people just don’t recognize that fact that much. That the future is going to be like this, oscillations, you know, in cases,” said Michael.
With emerging medications to treat COVID-19 and the possibility for additional vaccines, we’re closer to this virus eventually becoming like the flu.
Over time the repeat waves will get smaller and smaller.
“Ultimately it will become endemic. So it’ll settle into an endemic state which means there will be background transmission but most people are immune,” said Michael.
But researchers say we can’t rule out a mutation.
“There’s an elephant in the room, right? And that is we don’t know a new variant that might emerge. If that variant were to punch holes in the vaccine-induced immunity, we are back to square one,” said Michael.
Virus variants are still a threat.
“Globally this is not gone. We don’t know what’s going on in Africa, India is a major problem, Latin America. Those kinds of places where vaccinations are still lagging. That’s going to lead to an emergence of variants. We can never say how that’s going to do,” said Michael.
That’s why experts are encouraging people to fight pandemic fatigue.
“This happened last fall as well. We were also in a very good track right so everybody thought this is it. This is the end you know? And then omicron came. So that’s all I would say is we just don’t know where this might go,” said Michael.