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The pandemic isn't going to come to a 'hard and fast close,' doctor warns

·Senior Editor
·4-min read

Even though COVID cases and hospitalizations have been decreasing over the past month, one doctor doesn’t think the pandemic is ending any time soon.

“The tricky thing is we all expected variants,” Dr. Ali Raja, a professor at Harvard Medical School, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “But there was really no way to predict something as transmissible as the Delta variant has been found to be. And unfortunately, the pandemic just isn’t something that’s going to come to a quick or hard and fast close.”

The general public seems to be sharing that sentiment. A new Axios poll found that 30% of U.S. adults expect it to take at least more than a year from now for life to get back to normal.

“I was talking to a couple of the nurses I work with just yesterday when we were both in the emergency department,” Raja said. “And we talked about the fact that some of us might actually wear masks much longer term, especially at work, since we haven’t been seeing all the colds that usually result in a bunch of callouts because everybody’s been wearing masks and protecting themselves. I do see this as going longer than I think many of us would hope.”

'Think of all the immunocompromised people'

Vaccination numbers in the U.S. slowed over the summer and several states implemented policies that downplayed the threat — including Texas Governor Greg Abbot banning vaccine mandates through executive order.

“I’m from Texas, and I love so many things about the state and the people,” Raja said. “But pushing back on the ability for businesses to have a COVID mandate, it’s just a really bad idea. We know that vaccines are safe and effective, and that for a lot of businesses that deal with large segments of the public — think the travel industry, think hospitals — we need the people who are using those services to feel and truly be safe.”

Twelve states have outright banned vaccine mandates by employers, though some companies like American Airlines (AAL) and United Airlines (UAL) are defying those orders.

“For example, the Texas Medical Center is a huge health care metropolis,” Raja said. “And think of all the immunocompromised people and the young children who come for care there. They really need everybody caring for them to be vaccinated. Not allowing a vaccine mandate like this for certain businesses really leads to confusion and a lack of safety.”

Another issue is the evolving information coming from health and government officials, which creates confusion that drives vaccine skeptics further away.

“I think what gets to people, what demoralizes and confuses people, is when there is constantly changing of recommendations,” Raja said. “When you think about it, unfortunately right now, we’re making policy as evidence comes out. It’s inherent in the process that things are going to change. But once we know more than we do now and we’re able to get to a steady state in terms of what we need to do to keep us safe, I think people will eventually come to expect it.”

As an example, Raja compared the COVID policy changes to new TSA screenings after the 9/11 attacks.

“Now we’re just used to doing that as the standard course of air travel,” he said. “I feel like once we know much more than we do now, we’ll be able to get to a steady state and that confusion won’t make people as demoralized as they are.”

The debate over children

As the pandemic continues, another question at hand is whether or not children should also be mandated to get the COVID-19 upon eligibility. 

California has already made it mandatory for children in grades K-12 to get vaccinated once the vaccine for those age groups receives full approval from the FDA. But some parents are pushing back, claiming that the risk of complications to children is low.

President Biden put his facemask on after delivering remarks following a tour at the Clayco construction site in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
President Biden put his facemask on after delivering remarks following a tour at the Clayco construction site in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, October 7, 2021. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

A vaccinated 70-year-old has the same risk of hospitalization as an unvaccinated child, according to the New York Times, which Raja described as “actually accurate.”

But, he noted, there’s a caveat: Even if the child doesn’t get seriously ill, they can still pass it on to others who are more vulnerable, especially as the holidays approach.

“We all know that young kids don’t do all the other things that vaccinated 60-year-olds do well — wearing masks indoors, distancing indoors, washing their hands,” Raja said. “So the risk of transmission is higher, especially as we talk about going into the holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas and young kids being around potentially immunocompromised adults. We need to be safe, and I’m definitely going to be vaccinating our kids if the FDA and the CDC approve it.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at


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