Eyeing the future of the coronavirus pandemic

How the coronavirus pandemic plays out in the coming months depends on a number of factors, such as states’ decisions on reopening their economies, continuing improvements in COVID-19 testing, and health care system readiness, according to experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a June 16, 2020 Harvard Gazette article, six Harvard Chan School faculty members offered insights about the pandemic.

Yonatan Grad, Melvin J. and Geraldine Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, questioned whether there’s the political and social will to sustain another round of community lockdowns.

Officials will have to figure out which targeted steps to take to limit coronavirus transmission—without knowing for sure which are most effective—while minimizing economic harm, according to the article. “The question of how to balance this is the most crucial question our society has had to ask in decades, if not centuries,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology. He said the country is in the midst of a real-time experiment, as different states are reopening at different times, different speeds, and at different points in their epidemics.

William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, said, “If we keep making contacts and we let the virus transmit, the outlook is grim. The only thing we can be sure of is, given more opportunities to transmit, the virus will transmit more.”

Still, experience gained over the past few months will influence future responses, according to the experts. “We have about the same arrows in our quiver, but some are getting sharper,” said Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (CCDD).

Also quoted in the article was Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, who said that enhanced testing capacity “will allow us to be smarter and to understand, through our contact tracing, what infection is likely to occur.” And Paul Biddinger, director of the Emergency Preparedness Research & Evaluation Program (EPREP) at Harvard Chan School and chief of emergency preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that hospitals—having fought COVID once—are in a better position for a potential second round.

Read the Harvard Gazette article: Americans are weary of lockdowns, but if COVID surges, what then?