As the United States reports the most new cases of COVID-19 in the world and strict stay-at-home orders continue to keep most of the country in closed quarters, the same question seems to be burning in everyone’s mind: When will this be over?
A professor of public health and member of multiple coronavirus task forces, Dr. Robert Norton, spoke to PEOPLE to answer critical questions about the pandemic and its projected timeline.
Will COVID-19 Be Gone by Summer?
“Realistically, I think it’s going to be going well into the summer in some areas,” says Norton.
Though the spread of the virus is expected to slow down in larger cities where it’s circulating now, “there will be some places where it’s still circulating, so it never really leaves.”
The hope and anticipation is that we will reach a state of eventual immunity so we don’t experience another crisis like the one we’re in.
Norton projects that COVID-19 will become a seasonal virus similar to the flu, so even if summer seems to halt the outbreak in some areas, we may very well see its return in the fall.
Can You Be Reinfected with COVID-19?
Understandably so, many are wondering if reinfection is possible once you’ve had the coronavirus.
“At this point, we have to say it’s possible,” answers Norton, “but we don’t know the percentage of people that are going to continue to be susceptible.”
He explains that the 80 to 85 percent of people that will not have to be hospitalized upon contracting the virus will be more resistant than others. However, that doesn’t confirm that they will be totally resistant because we don’t have enough data yet to know how the immune reaction will be.
It’s an answer we won’t know for certain until the majority of the outbreak is over and scientists can do antibody testing.
Do I Need to Follow Social Distancing Guidelines if I’ve Recovered from COVID-19?
“The best idea is to stay home,” says Norton. With an abundance of questions about the coronavirus still left unanswered, including whether or not people can remain contagious after recovery, the safest bet is to continue following social distancing precautions.