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Tampa Bay public health experts look at what could be next during this pandemic

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Posted at 5:57 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 18:24:19-05

With the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out to younger kids and as case numbers continue to drop in Florida, public health experts are taking a look at what’s next during this pandemic and what still needs to happen to get life closer to normal.

Right now, CDC data shows nearly 60 percent of the total US population is fully vaccinated. ABC Action News spoke to Dr. Thomas Unnasch, a Distinguished USF Health professor, about the current state of the pandemic in Florida. He explained both case numbers and hospitalizations are down.

“I think we’re going to reach a point where it’s just going to sort of reach a plateau, and at that point in time, it’s going to become an endemic, and we’re just going to have to live with it,” said Unnasch. “Hopefully, what it’ll be is an endemic case of the sniffles for everybody, which I think we can live with.”

Dr. Unnasch hopes with a combination of the vaccines, new therapeutics, and people’s exposure to the virus, it will mean the population will be generally largely or partially immune, so while people may get sick, they may not get very sick.

“If we could drive this into a position with vaccination where it’s just going to cause a cold, we can live with getting the sniffles once a year, once every other year. I think all of us can live with that," said Unnasch. "What you don’t want to do is put yourself in a position by not getting vaccinated and losing your immunity where you’re going to end up hospitalized and on a ventilator."

He said while it’s looking sunny in Florida right now, there are clouds on the horizon, pointing to areas like a resurgence of infections in Europe.

“I think this is going to be kind of one of these things that is going to ping-pong around,” said Dr. Unnasch. “You’ll see waves or ripples that are going to be occurring around the world as this virus manages to move around and exploit susceptible people.”

“In all likelihood, we’re going to have to live with COVID, maybe like we live with flu,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a USF Health Professor of Public Health.

Levine reminds people the pandemic isn’t over yet and still stresses the importance of getting vaccinated.

“It’s not just to protect you, but it’s to prevent new variants from forming. This is the way that we can work together to prevent that from happening,” said Dr. Levine.

As we get closer to the holidays, experts want people to keep an eye on what’s happening in their community and take the right precautions to stay safe.

“This may be an up and down type of pandemic for the next couple months, maybe a year or so. None of us know, but we all need to be aware, and we all just need to protect our health because that’s the most important thing right here,” said Levine