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New modeling shows when pandemic could begin to slow

Model is dependent on new variants and vaccinations
Posted at 5:22 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 21:37:56-04

DENVER — Coloradans may be able to breathe easy soon, and it’s all because of a new national model.

"We projected that, absent a new variant, that things should start declining on a national level slowly," said Justin Lessler, infectious disease epidemiologist with the University of North Carolina.

Lessler is also a member of the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, which developed several scenarios. The most likely was that young children are vaccinated and no superspreading variant like delta occurs.

"We’re going to reach a time when nobody older is seeing the disease for the first time, and so everybody is going to have at least some immunity," Lessler said "I think when that happens we will start seeing a lot less hospitalization, a lot less death when we see outbreaks and the outbreaks will be a lot smaller."

Still, the best case scenario is six months away, and if restrictions and guidelines ease too much, things could change for the worse.

"I see this more as saying if you keep your guard up, you’re not going to have to do this forever. Don’t give up, things are going to get better," Lessler said.

Dr. Rachel Herlihy with CDPHE said this modeling is encouraging but also doesn’t rule out the emergence of another variant.

"Unfortunately, COVID-19 has surprised us many times throughout this pandemic, and I think that it is possible that we could see other variants emerge," Herlihy said. "That is the scenario I am concerned about."

If and when cases, hospitalizations and deaths decline next year, it doesn’t mean COVID-19 will disappear either.

"I think we are growing used to the fact that COVID-19 is going to be around in some way shape or form for quite a long time and that we will have to adjust with it being with us," infectious disease expert with National Jewish Health Dr. Jared Eddy said.

At the same in time, Colorado could be in a better position compared to other states.

"Colorado, where it hasn’t really had the same sort of intense epidemic, we’re expecting a leveling off or even maybe some increase for a few weeks going forward. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the state level," Lessler said.

There may be uncertainty, but there's also hope that with time and care, better days are ahead.