RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You’ve made it two years without catching COVID-19 — at least, that you know of.
What are the chances you never will?
It’s hard to put a hard number on that, although those odds appear to be slimming as many of the rules and restrictions, particularly those involving masks and face coverings, are being lifted.
“I think we’re moving to a place in the future where running away from the virus is just going to become harder and harder and less tenable,” said Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine.
“We’ve already made a decision as a society: We don’t want to keep running away,” he said. “We don’t want to keep building moats around us and that we want to get back to normal.”
One school of thought during the worst of the omicron surge earlier this year was that it was inevitable that just about everyone would catch it — with the only question being how severe the case would be.
Local doctors now don’t think it’s quite that much of a foregone conclusion.
But during this transition back to something closely resembling a pre-pandemic lifestyle, it’s not going to be easy to sidestep all those potential pitfalls.
“I suppose there are people out there that are going to go through their life and never get COVID,” said Dr. Becky Smith, an infectious disease specialist at the Duke University School of Medicine. “And maybe it’s because they are doing all those preventive measures, or maybe they have remarkable immune systems. That’s probably pretty rare.”
The CDC has estimated that 43 percent of Americans, or about 140 million people, have been infected. But that leaves an estimated 57 percent who haven’t.
The state Department of Health and Human Services has reported a total of 2.6 million cases since March 2020. That estimated rate from the CDC would translate to about 4.5 million people in North Carolina.
It also would leave about 6 million who haven’t caught it yet.
But those numbers are difficult to estimate accurately, Wohl said, adding that up to 80 percent of the people who donated to blood banks had antibodies present that indicate they’ve been infected.
“That may not be a representative population,” Wohl said. “But there is a possibility that there’s a bunch of us — myself, hopefully, included, I think — who have not been infected.”
But the doctors agree that you’ll be better off catching it in the future than you are now, just as you’d be better off now compared to catching it months ago. That’s because treatments and therapies seem to improve with every passing month.
“The more we can get this like the flu, the more we will be able to pivot from running away to being, ‘Yeah, OK, I caught it, you know, that’s OK,’” Wohl said. “‘Now I’ve got some immunity. I’m probably not going to get long COVID. I’m definitely not going to get hospitalized because I’m not at risk and have all these great medicines that are going to make me feel better.”
Wohl says we’re now in the “transition period” where that isn’t quite the case yet.
“So I’m going to still be careful because I really don’t want to catch COVID-19 in March or April or May,” he added. “But it could be later in the summer (when) after that, we do have some of these treatments that we find out work really well and maybe keep us from getting very sick.”