ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force says the country may never reach herd immunity in the battle against COVID-19. That news came during a two-hour-long FOX 2 special called “COVID-19: The Next Steps.”
Herd immunity is the point where most individuals have been vaccinated or developed immunity through a previous infection and the virus runs out of hosts to spread to. New, more infectious variants have made the goal of herd immunity elusive. Dr. Alex Garza said the country has a long way to go before it reaches that milestone.
“The number that has been used is somewhere from 70 to 90 percent of people vaccinated within the community. It’s going to be tough to get to that number, quite frankly. I know the president has said he’d like to be at 70 percent by July 4th. I think we still have a way to go to get there. Will we ever get to herd immunity? I think that’s a valid question,” said Dr. Garza.
Medical officials say they believe the coronavirus is going to be seasonal. It’s going to be like the flu and we have to be ready for it. Dr. Garza says it’s important for young people 12 and older to get vaccinated.
“It’s not so much that age group is at high risk for a poor outcome and form a serious disease from COVID-19. What is more important is being able to interrupt the transmission of the virus into the community,” said Dr. Garza.
The FDA is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds next week. It is already approved for those over 16. But, the big question on parent’s minds is, “What will the fall school semester look like?”
Many school districts plan to keep safety protocols in place, with mask requirements, and social distancing. The restrictions will be reviewed over the summer and could be updated by fall.
“What we really want to do in Parkway is being in person. Certainly have relationships where our students can mingle but we’re going to be a bit cautious. We’re going to keep the health and safety of our students and staff as the primary goal,” said Parkway School Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty.
St. Louis, as a tourist destination, and convention spot is making a strong comeback.
“This time last year hotels in the metro area were running occupancy of about 20 percent. The entire industry was brought to its knees. Restaurants were shuttered. Tens of thousands of hospitality professionals were furloughed, laid off, and out of work. But now we’re running an occupancy in the metro area of roughly 54 to 55 percent and we’re steadily improving,” said Brian Hall with Explore St. Louis.
Experts say getting to some sense of normalcy is within reach, if you get vaccinated.
“We’ve gotten really close if we can push through and get through that last mile. I tell people this is like running a marathon and that the last mile is really hard. You have to be able to push through that. If we can get through that last bit, we can get back to normal for the St. Louis region,” said Dr. Garza.
Bottom line: stay hopeful. Stay vigilant.