Experts Predict What Summer 2021 Will Be Like With The COVID-19 Pandemic

by Joseph K. Clark

Certain feelings have practically vanished since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic ― the most major of which is hope. The past year-plus has been heavy and exhausting, with barely enough time to breathe before the next piece of not-so-great COVID-19 news drops. It seems, though, that we are rounding a corner as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to drop, and vaccines become more available.

“Speaking for the U.S., I’m really hoping that this summer will be remarkably different from last summer,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We’re on a good path right now, and I just hope that we can stay on the path that we’re on.”

Experts Predict What Summer

Following that path, though, is dependent on society’s actions, including continuing to follow public health guidance and getting vaccinated. It’s also reliant on the unexpected curveballs the pandemic has been throwing at us for the past year.

So, where does that leave us? Below, experts shared their expectations for summer 2021 throughout the country based on how the pandemic is going right now:

As more people get vaccinated, there will likely be fewer restrictions

The importance of getting the coronavirus vaccine when it’s available to you cannot be overstated: “These vaccines are absolutely our way out of this pandemic,” said David Aronoff, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Timothy Brewer, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, added that as people continue to get vaccinated into the spring and summer, he expects that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will relax some of its guidelines and restrictions.

So, as more and more people get their shots and are protected from severe COVID-19 and death, we can expect to be able to safely do many of the activities we’ve missed out on over the past year.

Outdoor gatherings will likely become a safe norm.

“One of the things that we are feeling better about is the data around SARS-CoV-2 transmission and recognizing that outdoor activities have not turned out, as best as we can tell, to be a significant factor in pushing the pandemic forward,” Brewer said, referring to the fact that the threat of virus spread is low in socially distant, outdoor settings.

Brewer suspects that particularly hard-hit areas like Los Angeles are getting closer to herd immunity when you combine the number of people who had detectable COVID-19, those who were unknowingly infected, and those who have now been vaccinated.

He added that he expects to see this happen in other harder-hit areas in the coming months, with some cities or states reaching herd immunity before other parts of the country.

Variants will appear, and COVID-19 transmission will continue

The outlook for the summer is generally sunny: We can look forward to eased restrictions, more available vaccines, and social gatherings with vaccinated people.

But the fear of new, more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants is accurate ― especially if they’re more resistant to vaccines. Aronoff said experts are tracking new strains very closely. Additionally, monitoring the spread of variants in unvaccinated areas will continue into the summer as well. We’ll see much more general preparedness compared to last year.

“I continue to look for signals and continue to scrutinize the data, but so far, I’m encouraged by the fact that we haven’t seen a real rise in case of numbers, particularly in the states where they have reported the variants,” said Nuzzo, who has been tracking COVID-19 trends and data since the pandemic’s beginning.

Nuzzo added that while things could take a turn for the worse, the data is not currently highly worrisome ― and by wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands, and getting the vaccine when it’s your turn, we’ll help slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.

But there is reason to be worried about potential virus spread in the states that have already loosened restrictions.

The hope that many public health experts feel about the summer is instantly met with the reality that some parts of the country have gone against national public health guidance and prematurely ended all safety precautions.

“This does have the possibility of going off the rails as more and more states are just throwing open the barn doors and lifting all restriction as though the virus has already disappeared,” said Nuzzo, adding that premature reopening could result in an incredible setback.

She stressed that those who live in states that are reopening with no measures should continue to wear their masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing. Also, remember that visiting an indoor space with no mask rules, no social distancing, and no limits on capacity is a significant risk for virus spread. “Just because [the restaurant is] open doesn’t mean you have to go,” she added.

We’ve been through a year-plus of an overwhelming, complicated, and unfair pandemic ― but at this point, the end is truly in sight.

Long story short: Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will experience a version of life that is pretty “normal” — visits with parents and grandparents, local beach house rentals with vaccinated loved ones, drinks with friends, hugs from family — without the overwhelming fear of becoming seriously ill or dying from the coronavirus.

“We’re in the last mile, folks. Let’s not quit the race before we win,” Nuzzo said. Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.

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