Health experts: U.S. could be several months away from "normal"

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 18:40:32-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Getting closer to “normal.” Health experts say a lot will factor into it. They say getting most Americans vaccinated is possibly the most essential part.

Ideally, it’ll take 90 percent of the U.S. getting vaccinated to reach what’s called herd immunity - that’s when most people are immune to the disease. That herd immunity will also influence when the economy will bounce back from the pandemic.

While healthcare workers and the elderly make up majority of Americans who say they’ll get vaccinated for COVID-19, health experts say it may not be enough to get back to normal.

The latest Pew Research survey released last month shows only about 60 percent of Americans would get vaccinated. Robert Hawkes, director of the Physician Assistant Program at Florida Gulf Coast University says much more is needed to reach herd immunity.

“Historically, it’s probably going to be anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of the people in the country have received vaccines,” he said.

That’s at least 230 million Americans. So far, only 11 million Americans have been vaccinated. That’s a little less than five percent of the country’s population.

Finance Professor Tom Smythe at FGCU says economic recovery depends on herd immunity, too. A full recovery will come in two phases. First, reaching that threshold.

“That’s the critical aspect for the economy. It’s getting to that herd immunity point, but it’s not just that,” said Smythe. “It’s convincing people that we’re there.”

Officials convincing the public to revert to their normal lives is the second part, which he says is more challenging than the first since many people will be hesitant to resume life as they know it.

“I think there’s going to be a delay. And what we can only hope, is that that delay is very short,” said Smythe.

Hawkes says a we may not get back to normal until well into the summer at the earliest. That’s if most people are vaccinated.

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