Life continues to return to a pre-pandemic normal in New Jersey as COVID cases and hospitalizations keep dropping, but there is still uncertainty about what may happen months down the road.

According to Dr. Perry Halkitis, an infectious disease expert and Dean of the Rutgers University School of Public Health, the coronavirus won’t go away completely, but he is even more concerned about a possible new threat that could be looming on the horizon.

A bigger, more powerful threat than COVID

“I am worried about another virus emerging, an even more powerful virus emerging, another even more powerful respiratory virus that we have no control of, that does even more damage,” he said.

Halkitis said that’s because “we live in this global society where we’re moving back and forth and traveling back and forth and interacting with people all over the world, and we can only control what goes on in our own homes.”

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He also noted as new COVID variants emerge they will still pose a threat, especially to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, but the expectation is the virus will be weaker and weaker.

Halkitis said he believes future COVID variants will be less harmful than what we’ve seen already “but I know with 99.9% certainty that next fall there will be another surge, like there is a surge of flu, and people will die.”

“We may not have the death rate and the hospitalizations that we did in the beginning or recently, but it will be something we will have to learn to live with for the foreseeable future,” he said.

In the Hospital Sick Male Patient Sleeps on the Bed. Heart Rate Monitor Equipment is on His Finger.
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What should we be doing now?

He said after what has happened with COVID over the past few years, “we know perfectly well that we need to pump more money into our Department of Health infrastructures all over the country.”

He added because a new deadly and fast-spreading pathogen is a real possibility we need to take action now in order to be ready.

“Hopefully that will follow and we will bring up to speed and modernize our efforts so that if the next one comes along we’re even better prepared to handle it,” he said.

He believes the medical community is aware of this issue and understands how important it is to be prepared for another serious pandemic threat, but this is not on most people’s radar.

“I think we could do a much better job, people like myself, people who are working on the front lines and actually putting forward and selling the work that we actually do, and the importance of the work that we actually do in keeping the population healthy,” he said.

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