Viewpoint: Plan on an unusual 2021, too 

With less than four months left in 2020, there is a slim probability of pre-pandemic normalcy returning in 2021, Aaron E. Carroll, MD, writes in an op-ed for The New York Times

Dr. Carroll, professor of pediatrics and associate dean for research mentoring at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, says many people are pinning their hopes on a medical breakthrough and overestimating the efficacy of a vaccine to fuel expectations of a 2021 with ordinary sports seasons, in-person classrooms, travel, parties and gatherings. The approval of a vaccine may mark the beginning of a real response to this virus versus the end, he notes. 

Furthermore, such unfounded optimism or hope for a solution in the near-term can fuel the urge to relax personal safety measures that curb the spread of COVID-19. 

"It is much more likely that life in 2021, especially in the first half of the year, will need to look much like life does now," writes Dr. Carroll. "Those who think that we have just a few more months of pain to endure will need to adjust their expectations." 

He advises that it is better to prepare for a difficult 2021 and be surprised by it being easier, or more normal, than to assume 2021 will be easier and be surprised when life is still hard. He also says it's time to tap all the safety measures to fight COVID-19 that many have resisted, including widespread testing for both asymptomatic and symptomatic people with ubiquitous, cheap, fast tests; practicing proper isolation and quarantine practices after exposure to the virus; normalizing face masks; and reopening plans for businesses and schools that are informed by science. 

"None of these ideas is a complete solution, but just because they're individually insufficient alone doesn't mean they aren't necessary," he writes.

Read Dr. Carroll's opinion piece in full here

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