As the country eases restrictions, doctor says that doesn’t mean COVID-19 pandemic is over


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As many people and businesses try to get back to normal, a local doctor says now is not the time to forget what we’ve learned in this “new normal.” Many states, cities and counties are now easing COVID-19 restrictions put in place months ago when Coronavirus first hit. That may leave you questioning whether social distancing and other safety guidelines are still necessary.

It feels like a new chapter. Local businesses are beginning to reopen, and more people are starting to go more places. Which brings up a very important question: Is the pandemic over?

“Short answer, no,” Dr. Dan Heinemann, vice president and medical officer for Sanford Health, said.

Dr. Heinemann says scientific data shows COVID-19 will be with us, at some level, through the end of the year, and possibly early into next year.

“Because we’re re-opening and because businesses are opening, I think people must feel this threat isn’t as serious as it was six weeks ago when we first encountered it. This threat is still there,” Heinemann said.

Dr. Heinemann says now is not the time to stop social distancing, nor should you ignore CDC safety and hygiene guidelines. That includes washing your hands, wearing masks, and disinfecting surfaces. He says nearly 40 percent of people with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms. That means you could give COVID to someone else without knowing.

“It continues to exist by infecting others and the only way to break that chain is to not give it to a host to infect and then reproduce so it can infect another host,” Heinemann said.

Brady: “I think it’s important to note, what you’re saying is, you’re not telling people to just stay home under a rock and not do anything. It seems like you’re telling people you can dip your toes back into society, but you just can’t stop practicing these safety guidelines. Is that correct?”
Dr. Heinemann: “For right now, that is correct.”

Many of us have loved ones who are older than 65 or at high risk for catching the virus. So when is it safe to visit them? Dr. Heinemann says it’s not time to put the vulnerable populations at risk. He says we should wait and see what happens as we re-open before we deem it safe to visit someone who could easily get sick. He says more tests could be key to answering that question.

We may be ready to turn the page on COVID-19. Dr. Heinemann says we still have to be cautious when going out, because we really don’t know when the pandemic will end.

“How much we’ve learned about this virus since it’s started, but how much more we’ve yet to learn. The true story of this whole thing is going to be written in two or three years from now when we really understand what happened,” Heinemann said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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