The COVID recovery: Why it could take years to return to normal

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — People may be fed up with COVID-19 restrictions, but experts say it will likely be years before the world returns to normal.

While we are definitely seeing COVID flareups across New York State, it’s still nothing like what we saw during the height of the pandemic.

“There are many people in public health who are tracking this closely, who think that we’re not going to get up to those levels again,” says Dr. Irwin Redlener.

But that’s where the good news seems to end.

Redlener, the director of Columbia University’s Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative, says people shouldn’t expect their lives to return to normal after a vaccine is approved.

In this week’s In Depth podcast, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell asked the doctor how long he thinks it will be until the world returns to some sort of normalcy, to which Redlener simply said: “Two to three years.”


“Because if we don’t completely crush this, we're going to be looking at lingering consequences, or maybe surges, or maybe mutations that will continue to be part of our culture,” Redlener said.

The doctor says there can be no return to normalcy if the country is still combatting the virus.

Meanwhile, the public health expert says it’s already extremely difficult to define the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across the United States, and the globe.

He says public health experts are studying the coronavirus, but the situation is always changing.

“Is it a second wave? You know, nobody really knows for sure, we haven’t really even defined what that means,” Dr. Redlener said.

He says it’s clear that cases will continue to appear in small clusters for the next few years, especially when some of the population will refuse to be vaccinated.

“The anti-vax movement in the United States – and worldwide, by the way – is a real problem,” Dr. Redlener said.

The Columbia professor says it will be difficult to control the spread of the virus as people continue to become complacent with the rules and experience fatigue from the restrictions.

If states begin to close again, he says it will be more difficult to ask people to comply, which could lead to spikes.

Dr. Redlener also worries that the winter, and colder weather will cause issues, but doesn’t anticipate numbers reaching April levels ever again.

“I think that we’ll not see that rate of hospitalizations and fatalities, even if we see a significant surge in the number of cases,” he said.

He adds, on the plus-side, hospitals are likely to be better prepared moving forward, as they continue to stockpile on personal protective equipment.

Hear more on the painful climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic with Dr. Irwin Redlener in this week's 880 In Depth Podcast. Find it wherever you get your podcasts.

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