TAMPA, Fla. — As things stand currently, experts say there is some good news when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For now according to the model, the pandemic is on its way out. The model predictions are showing that the pandemic is declining,” said Edwin Michael, an epidemiology professor at the University of South Florida and creator behind SEIRcast, a pandemic forecasting system.
Data researchers have looked at the transmission rate to see if there are any signs the COVID-19 variants are having a major impact on cases right now. They tell us so far the variants aren’t affecting cases too much, but we’re not out of the woods by any means.
“We really have to keep an eye on what is going to happen over the next two weeks or so to see if the variants are actually establishing itself,” said Michael.
These predictions are all according to current social distancing measures and vaccination rates.
Michael says the recent decline in cases has nothing to do with the vaccine yet.
“The vaccinations are far too slow. It’s rolling out at a very slow rate. So it’s not vaccinations, it’s the social measures,” said Michael.
If current social distancing measures and vaccine distribution stay the same, Michael says the pandemic should fade around the middle of August.
“The model is estimating as well you know how much physical distancing, face masks, is being worn by the public and also what fraction of the population are freely mixing,” said Michael.
However, if the public health measures decrease, experts tell us the models would change drastically.
“When the mixing occurs, you’ll get an exponential rise, so the infection will just come back. For that reason we have to ramp up vaccinations,” said Michael.
Researchers worry about what could happen if local leaders lift COVID-19 mandates too soon.
“Then it will lead to an enormous spike in cases. Then you’ll come back to the pre-lockdown,” said Michael.
He says right now is a crucial time to focus on continuing practicing public health measures the next few months while we all wait to get vaccinated so we can help the pandemic end this year.
“We need to keep the social measures going because you don’t want the infection to come back again. Secondly, social measures are also stopping the spread of the variants so you want to protect populations until the vaccines are up to speed,” said Michael.