Answer: We don’t know.
A vaccine would be great, but it will take at least a year to a year and a half.
At some point, herd immunity will come into play, but that will also take a while, since still the vast majority of Americans don’t have antibodies and therefore are vulnerable to Covid-19.
One of the smartest things I ever heard anyone say about Covid-19 is that we don’t know what we don’t know.
Viruses surprise us.
Who knew that Zika could be transmitted sexually? Who knew that Ebola can linger in people’s eyes? We don’t know if Covid-19 is seasonal, like the flu. (And remember — the flu doesn’t disappear in warmer weather; the numbers just drop dramatically.)
We don’t know if Covid-19 will return in the fall. This is a new virus and it is teaching us what it is and what it will do.
We don’t know when this will end. But here’s what I hope: We are a better, kinder and stronger group of people.
Hopefully there will be a vaccine and new treatments in several months — this will help both treat people who are sick and prevent people from getting sick.
There’s still a lot that we need to learn about this virus — why does it strike some people so severely and not others?
Transition strategies and what comes next
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program, spoke Friday about getting from the crisis to the post-crisis.
Ryan talked about “transition strategies” and said each country needs a strong public health architecture, a massive investment in our capacity to do surveillance, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and a robust information system so that people know what to do and where to go if they are sick.
“And if we do that, we have a chance of transitioning back into a life, and economic and social life, that may, in some senses, not be the same again, maybe a more caring, engaged society with a better health care system, with better universal access to health care, with more social justice, and more care for each other, and that won’t be a bad society to go back to.”
“We don’t want to end up in a cycle of lockdown, followed by release, followed by another lockdown, followed by release. That’s not the way forward. And the way to avoid that is we need a transition strategy that gets us back into more control of the virus. We need to get ahead of the virus.”
Get ready for some creative solutions
Proof of immunity — There are other ideas gaining traction. In the UK, they are considering the possibility of “immunity passports” — people who have recovered from the disease would essentially get papers to return to work.
One major issue here: It’s unknown how long immunity will last after a person recovers from Covid-19.
And testing, as we know, is imperfect. It might not be possible to guarantee immunity.
But certainly there will soon be an army of people who have recovered from Covid-19 and want to return to a functioning society.
The thinking will change — It’s never been more clear that health experts and the government are guessing about things too.
While they have long said that only people with symptoms should be tested, it’s the countries that engaged in large amounts of testing that have fared best.
The CDC used to say there was no evidence that school closures would slow the spread. But nearly every American school kid is home now.
More permanent lockdown — In China, there are color-coded phones for the government to monitor where people go and, also, to enforce quarantine on certain areas.
What about China — On the one hand, they appear to have turned the corner on the coronavirus.