The omicron surge continues to push new COVID case counts, hospitalizations and deaths higher in New Jersey, but the wave of infections is expected to peak in the next three or four weeks then drop sharply.

But what happens after that?

According to Dr. Annette Reboli, an infectious disease expert and dean of the Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, we are rapidly moving into a phase of the pandemic where “we’re going to have more adaptation, learning how to adapt and live with it.”

She said even if omicron fades out the way we are hoping and expecting, it won’t mean we’re in the clear.

The new reality

“I don’t think any of us have a crystal ball but I think most people would not be surprised if we hear another variant comes up,” she said.

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She said a new variant may suddenly emerge and pose a minor or major threat because this is the nature of viruses.

“One thing that is very true of them is that they mutate, they change very, very rapidly,” she said.

New treatments

Reboli said researchers are hard at work right now trying to develop a broad spectrum type of COVID vaccine that would be very effective against multiple types of variants.

“That would be a great advance in our vaccine armamentarium. Hopefully, that will come to fruition in the not too distant future,” she said.

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“The mRNA platform for these vaccines is very, very easy to manipulate and produce new vaccines in short order," she said.

Reboli said if different forms of COVID are detected in the future we could also see a variety of vaccines being produced and “people will get a dose of vaccine based on predictions of either what is circulating or what is known to be circulating similar to flu vaccines.”

Meanwhile, anti-COVID pills developed by Pfizer and Merck could also be widely available soon.

“Probably their usage will come about where if you start having symptoms you’ll do a rapid test, contact your physician and then your physician will be able to prescribe a course of oral therapy, and it will keep you out of the hospital," she said.

An ongoing battle

No matter what new advances are made, she said we need to remember “viruses are smart and they have the ability to evade the vaccines. I think we’re seeing some of that now.”

The current vaccines do a very good job at preventing severe illness from the omicron variant but many fully vaccinated people have gotten the virus because it’s so contagious.

She said the bottom line is COVID remains a very serious threat “but I have confidence in the science and the extraordinary work that’s being done to mitigate this on all fronts.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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