When will the COVID-19 pandemic be over?
April 30, 2020 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for numerical estimates of your current best evidence-based answer of when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over 1) in the United States and 2) worldwide. To more clearly define, "over" I would like to clarify that it would not be zero cases, but more to do with a return to pre-pandemic activity with no greater fear of excess mortality than that of influenza prior to the pandemic.

This is different from other questions that do not apparently address the important question of when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over.
posted by metasunday to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think they know, there are still some open questions about how long immunity lasts, and how fast the virus changes .Those two things will really really impact long term outcomes. It ultimately could look more like flu in terms of being a new vaccination every year, or it could be that someone gets it/a vaccination and they are immune for long periods of time. Or it could be that human bodies are really terrible at remembering this virus for some reason .

Short term if vaccination trials go well, current estimates are between 12 to 18 months. That's probably the best estimation.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:44 PM on April 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My understanding is that the evidence is Covid-19 is likely stable and widespread enough that it will become endemic in the North American population in the absence of a vaccine. So there will be a steady number of infected people and steady rate of transmission similar to other coronaviruses. Outbreaks will periodically occur in vulnerable populations like nursing homes, cruise ships, prisons, dorms and hospitals but other than that life will carry on for most people as normal. Other countries may be able to contain the virus right now but with such a large pool of potentially infected travelers will have a hard time maintaining that status. If endemic status is the endpoint, assuming nothing changes, then the pandemic will end when a certain herd immunity has been reached which will be a rolling wave. I have a hunch this is why so many leaders are saying "oh well, may as well open up!!" because they don't understand this was always the likely endpoint and that flattening the curve is still 100%necessary and will save lives.

If the vaccines work then I'd guess late next summer because it's going to take a while to get those manufactured and distributed and parts of the world will always be Covid-19 reservoirs.
posted by fshgrl at 7:57 PM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

2 years min to vaccine.
2-3 years after that for noise-level infections.

Shot in the dark.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:03 PM on April 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

I don't think it's going to stop being a big factor for everything for another year or two. But nobody knows anything. There's improvements being made in treating serious cases which could also cause people to feel better. OTOH some people have caught it more than once, so maybe we won't be in the clear until there's a widely deployed vaccine which will be on the longer side. And it's possible that we won't come up with a vaccine in a reasonable timeframe and we'll just go through waves and waves for a much longer time.
posted by aubilenon at 8:38 PM on April 30, 2020

It will never be over. Things will go back to better-than-quarantine for a while this summer, then get bad again in the fall, then seem to get a little better in spring 2021, then get worse again, etc. Each time will be a little less severe than before, but bad enough that we will miss the pre-COVID-19 days. Based on previous coronaviruses, we get about a year's worth of protection from antibodies. As long as we as a society continue to privilege a few over the many, there will be a reservoir for it. If, in some hypothetical fantasy, the rich (i.e. USA) moved to a more rational healthcare system and we stopped sequestering the wealth from so-called third-world countries, it could be finished sooner. Don't count on that happening.
posted by jjray at 9:02 PM on April 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

People who dedicate their careers and lives to studying epidemiology, virology, pharmaceutical and vaccine research, public heath and medicine don't know the answer to this.

We will likely not return to 'normal', whatever that may mean, for a couple of years at least. But we don't know.
posted by latkes at 9:04 PM on April 30, 2020 [17 favorites]

Your question is very difficult as posed. Right now it doesn't seem like there are clear explanations for why the virus has spread aggressively in some places, and not very aggressively in others. Without explanations for that, it seems very difficult to predict whether the places which haven't been hit very hard yet (e.g. most American cities besides NYC) will experience huge new outbreaks if restrictions are lifted, or not.

You might want to check the list of Metaculus coronavirus predictions for related quantitative predictions that are helpful to you.
posted by value of information at 9:16 PM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Even with the partial lockdowns that the United States have been under for a month the infection rate and death rates are not dropping below 1. Currently they seem to be between 1.02 and 1.05. That means we haven't really flattened the curve. We've almost stopped the increase in growth. With any lifting of restrictions there will almost certainly be an increase in growth rate. And stopping growth just means we have a steady state of infection and death at appalling levels (like 1500-2000/day)

And those numbers are almost certainly underestimates and everyone knows this.

The United States is pretty much surrendering to the virus and now adopting a very weak mitigation strategy and so are significant portions the Western World. At this point the only way is through. Shortly they will start rebooting what is left of the economy. I figure in a month or two they give up almost all mitigation.

Vaccines are a lottery ticket and the idea that a properly tested safe one could arrive in 16 months is absurd. In four months the world hasn't even managed the production and distribution of simple masks or proper testing. A vaccine is a far more difficult problem.

Buckle up, it's going to be al ong turbulent flight.
posted by srboisvert at 3:58 AM on May 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

The NYT today has a depressing article about vaccine development timelines. 12-18 months is incredibly optimistic for a vaccine; 5-20 years is more likely.

There are other ways to stop the pandemic. Testing + contact tracing is what's working in other countries, but we have no plan to do that meaningfully in the US or any of the states.
posted by Nelson at 8:02 AM on May 1, 2020

It will be over when the combination of herd immunity, vaccination, and treatment sufficiently reduce everyone's concern about it. We don't know when that will be.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2020

This report published yesterday by a group of prominent epidemiology and public health experts presents a few scenarios for how the pandemic might progress in the coming months, and concludes:
Whichever scenario the pandemic follows (assuming at least some level of ongoing mitigation measures), we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant COVID-19 activity, with hot spots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas. As the pandemic wanes, it is likely that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to circulate in the human population and will synchronize to a seasonal pattern with diminished severity over time, as with other less pathogenic coronaviruses, such as the betacoronaviruses OC43 and HKU1, (Kissler 2020) and past pandemic influenza viruses have done.
From the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:22 AM on May 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Thank you to all for answering!

Estimates in rank order:

4 to 5 years
2 years
18 to 24 months
12 to 18 months
15 months
4 to 5 years
5 to 20 years

Median estimate: 15 months

August 30, 2021

We will see how close this estimate is!
posted by metasunday at 6:46 PM on May 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

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