Hope for a future without masks and social distancing were no doubt on most of our minds as we said goodbye to 2020 and welcomed the new year.
While no one can’t put an exact date on the elusive return to normal life, most experts agree that we’ll start getting there sometime in 2021.
By the numbers: While vaccine distribution is encouraging, coronavirus metrics are not. For weeks, North Carolina has set new records for daily cases and hospitalizations.
Mecklenburg County’s percentage of positive cases is 11.8 percent; statewide it’s 13.6 percent. Hospital capacity, one of the most important metrics, is shrinking. As of Sunday evening there were 57 staffed ICU beds available in the Charlotte region and 407 Covid patients hospitalized in the county [Go deeper].
Vaccines: 63,571 healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and workers in N.C. have received the first does of the vaccine. Next, the state will allow adults over 75 and frontline essential workers to be vaccinated. The full vaccine schedule includes four phases ordered by priority.
“With the limited supply of vaccine we think (phase 4) could be well into the spring,” NCDHHS secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said during a briefing on December 30.
What the experts say: Most experts predict the vaccine will be widely available by spring or summer of this year. However, state officials across the country have complained about receiving fewer doses of the vaccines than expected.
In late December, Novant Health’s Dr. David Priest said he’s not worried about the number of doses slowing down our ability to reach herd immunity. “For a healthcare system like us it’s really a week-to-week proposition. And I think it’s like that for the states. The state learns about their allotment and in turn we learn about ours. We’re giving them as fast as we possibly can,” he said.
The variables: In addition to having enough doses of the vaccine, in order to achieve achieve herd immunity, people have to be willing to take the vaccine. There’s still lingering skepticism about the vaccine’s efficacy after being produced in less than a year.
Medical professionals and state and local leaders on both sides of the aisle are advocating for the vaccine and its safety [Go deeper].
Before the vaccine is available to everyone, masks and social distancing will continue to be critical to keeping the outbreak from getting worse.
Restrictions: Beyond reaching enough people with vaccines, ultimately lifting restrictions will be the first real step back to normal life. Although Cooper hasn’t tightened restrictions in weeks, he also hasn’t lifted them [Go deeper].
Throughout the pandemic Cooper and NCDHHS secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen have shared markers that determine whether restrictions should be tightened or loosened. When coronavirus trends improve, restrictions will be slowly lifted, not all at once — it’ll be the “dimmer switch approach” Cooper and Cohen have emphasized over the past ten months.