2021 Brings Pandemic Optimism, Global Health Expert Says Not So Fast

NBC 7 spoke to UCSD Global Health Sciences professor Steffanie Strathdee about how this new year may play out

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With the turn of the calendar to 2021, some San Diegans are optimistic about turning the corner and getting back to normal life, or at least something close to it.

But as record-setting case data and critically-low hospital bed and staff availability show us, the current coronavirus case surge is showing no signs of slowing down.

As far as how this year might play out, UC San Diego Global Health Sciences professor Steffanie Strathdee said we may have to weather the storm for a little bit longer.

"Unfortunately, California is the epicenter right now of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States. We are going to be feeling the brunt of some of our communities' behavior over Thanksgiving and Christmas for the next six weeks, at least,” Strathdee said.

2020 is over, but the fight to contain COVID-19 is just getting started. Vaccines are on their way, but it will take some time before we achieve herd immunity, according to Strathdee.

 "These vaccines work. They’re highly efficacious. So when you have the opportunity to take it, I urge you to take it for the sake of not just you and your family but for the community," said Strathdee.

In the meantime, the variant strain is here, now.

"We need to be doing more surveillance, more sequencing of the virus so we can stay ahead of it not behind it,” said Strathdee.

Strathdee says a combination of factors led to the current surge, like our behaviors and the lack of enforcement of health and safety guidelines.

 "Weren’t strict enough and they weren’t long enough. If we had really flattened the curve, instead of just dampened the curve, we'd be in a much better place," said Strathdee.

How to find the balance between economic stability and public health is unclear.

“We aren’t going to get the economy under control until we get the virus under control," said Strathdee.

Strathdee said people need to hunker down for a little while longer, avoid non-essential activities and crowds as much as possible to get through these next few months and onto a brighter 2021.

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