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Law: The peak is likely still ahead

When will Pike County see it’s “peak” infection rate for COVID-19?

That’s a question with no easy answer, but one that could provide hope for residents and business owners looking to regain some sense of normalcy.

“People are starting to ask a lot of questions about when this stuff ends,” said Dr. Eric Law. “Based on the models we use, (Pike County) seems to be approaching a peak in terms of the number of cases and resources required to treat those … and we hope over the coming two to three weeks we can start seeing the numbers start to fall.”

As of Friday afternoon, Pike County had 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19, although Law cautioned that the actual rate of infection in Pike County, as in the state and throughout the nation, is likely much higher than reported because many individuals with the virus are asymptomatic.

“Even though we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, we’re not there yet,” he said. “At best, we may be coming up on our peak … and stopping all we’ve been doing now would be a terrible idea.”

Law explained that the peak infection rates are predicted by different scientific models, and medical professionals likely won’t know when the peak has been reached – or passed – until they see a steady decline in infection rates. “In hindsight, it’s easy to know when the peak was, but right now the peak is predicted based on models of what we know and how the virus spreads,” he said.

“For every state in the United States, when those restrictions will end will be different … California is going to peak a little before Alabama,” he said.

The likelihood of eased restrictions increased this week, as the President urged states to reopen their economies. In Alabama, a group of state lawmakers proposed reopening retail businesses, restaurants, beaches and more immediately, rather than wait to the end of the governor’s stay home order, which continues through April 30.

Even if restrictions were lifted immediately, Law said everyday life won’t return to the rhythms of pre-COVID-19. “I think even if they lifted all the restrictions right now, people would still be wary of getting out the way they were, and that’s a good thing,” Law said.

Law believes people will approach interactions and gatherings with more caution, as they should.

Social distancing and personal hygiene measures also will likely continue, with the addition of wearing masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment.

“The recommendations are going to be that if are going to be in public you need to wear a mask,” Law said. “If you are well, a mask may cut down by half your risks of contracting the virus.

“And as awkward as that feels for us, it’s probably going to do a lot for protecting us.”

More important, he cautioned, the “peak” so many people anticipate with COVID-19 will not be a singular event. The virus will return, and infection rates will continue to spike until a vaccine is in place. Officials have said that vaccine could take 12 to 18 months.

“The expectation right now is that it will return and probably won’t even take as long as the fall,” Law said. “As of right now, you should expect this thing to be similar to the flu, which blossoms frequently. Until we have a vaccine approved and available, we will continue to see those infection rates rise and fall.”