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Will our “Normal” Days Last? Dr. Khare weighs in on new COVID strains and what to expect moving forward

No restrictions. None. Normal. Well, almost normal. Whatever you want to call where we are right now, it’s wonderful. Chicago is out and about, smiling and socializing. We even have full capacity Cubs games again. We’ve come a long way since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives. But is it over? I asked Dr. Khare to offer his perspective on what’s next. Will we continue to see small spikes? Is the new strain going to threaten to shut things down again? Here’s what he had to say. 

Q: Should we be worried about new strains of COVID-19?

A: The CDC is watching new strains closely, as variants of the virus have the potential to spark new waves of illness. One variant in particular that is on the CDC watch list is the Delta strain (B.1.617.2). This mutation of COVID-19 was first detected in India in February 2021. India, as we’ve seen on the news, has suffered tremendous loss. Thousands of people got sick. This strain of COVID-19 is already in the United States. Whether it creates another round of illness is the real question, but here’s the data: If you have been vaccinated, this strain will not affect you. The only issue is for those who have not been vaccinated. There is a significant amount of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) that is pushed in the media (obviously, they need to get clicks and reads), but right now, in my medical opinion, this strain will not cause an increase in COVID-19 cases in those who are vaccinated.

Q: Will COVID-19 ever be gone from our lives? 

A: Probably not. However, it will likely become less problematic and we will learn to live with it. Vaccines, coupled with people having antibodies from previous infection, will limit new strains from spreading. When COVID-19 first entered the United States, we had no protection. It spread like wildfire and caused serious illness. Now, even if new COVID-19 strains continue to crop up, we have some level of protection. We learn more about the virus every day, which allows us to create effective vaccines and to be proactive in preventing its spread.

Q: Will additional vaccines be required? 

A: Much like flu viruses, COVID-19 viruses can mutate and change. For this reason it is entirely possible that we will one day have annual vaccines for COVID-19 variants. Scientists are continuing to study how well the existing vaccines protect against the variants. They are also astudying how long the vaccines will last and protect us. I suspect booster vaccines will be needed down the road, probably starting in October. You will probably need to get a booster from the same manufacturer as your original vaccine. 

Q: Do we still need to be tested for COVID-19 every time we get symptoms? 

A: While COVID-19 virus numbers are low currently, it’s still best to be tested if you have cold-like symptoms, a cough, fever or shortness of breath. Innovative Express Care continues to offer COVID-19 testing at our 1111 W. Diversey Parkway location. Testing and early identification of the virus allows you to quarantine and prevent spreading the illness to others. The days of dismissing symptoms and going to work sick or not are likely over. COVID-19 devastated many businesses as employee outbreaks occurred. For this reason, many will continue to require COVID tests and take a more proactive approach to employee health.