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Healthcare experts warn COVID-19 could become a constant presence like the flu

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As COVID-19 infections rise once again in South Carolina, some doctors warn we could be dealing with the coronavirus for years to come.

Dr. Michael Sweat, with the Medical University of South Carolina, believe we have missed out chance to eradicate COVID-19 from our lives because so many people around the world remain unvaccinated.

“Vaccination is our ticket out of this,” Sweat said.

He predicts the pandemic is shifting into an endemic, where COVID-19 will be a constant presence in our lives much like the flu.

“Because of the global burden of infection that’s out there, it’s going to be very tough to put the genie back in the bottle,” Sweat said. “This idea that...well it will eventually go away or it’s gone away, everything is back to normal…is just not going to happen. So, we need to think about our public health strategies, work on getting people vaccinated. We may likely need boosters in the future. So, I believe we are into an endemic stage, and it’s hard to take that in a way. It’s kind of like we were hoping we could get rid of this. Doesn’t mean we can’t manage it and get back to our lives though.”

Sweat suggested the focus should now be on managing COVID-19 infections, especially as schools prepare to reopen next month.

“One of the big issues on the horizon right now facing us, next month schools reconvene,” Sweat said. “The state government has limited mandating masks in schools.”

Officials with the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control are still working on their recommendations for classroom protections.

Meanwhile, Roper St. Francis Healthcare officials reported an increase in hospitalizations as case numbers rise once again.

“A couple of weeks ago you could count the number of people who had COVID in the hospital on one hand and now it’s taking four hands. That’s the way it’s going right now,” Dr. Robert Oliverio said. “We’re getting more lax and the virus is getting more infective. That’s a recipe for disaster. The best way to take care of that, the best way to turn this runaway train around, is to vaccinate.”

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