Confusion and skepticism continues as the United States prepares to surpass 500,000 COVID-19 related deaths.

President Biden is expected to mark the grim milestone this week. As we near one year of pandemic restrictions, what the future will look like remains a very big question, and a topic of great debate among medical experts.

Chief White House Medical Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggests we will be wearing masks into 2022. Fauci has not said when he expects the pandemic to end but remains optimistic the U.S. can achieve herd immunity through robust vaccination. Johns Hopkins Medical professor Marty Makary wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he expects COVID to be "mostly gone by April," and everything starting to get back to normal. However, the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggested we may never reach herd immunity and the pandemic will continue indefinitely.

In New Jersey, all the metrics we have monitored since the beginning of the outbreak almost a year ago have been steadily falling, yet restrictions remain in place. The rate of transmission has fallen to .88 and hospitalizations have dropped to about 2,000. At the peak of the pandemic, more than 8,000 were hospitalized. Despite New Jersey testing tens of thousands of residents for COVID-19 each day, the number of positive tests has also fallen more than 15% in a week.

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It is no wonder that many are frustrated and angry with the continued lockdowns in New Jersey. All of the metrics are pointing to the outbreak waning here, yet Gov. Phil Murphy has declined to lift most restrictions citing a new data point. Murphy says the rise in the number of COVID-19 mutations detected in New Jersey make him reluctant to increase the pace of reopening.

When Murphy extended his emergency health order for a 12th straight time last week, he assured the restrictions would remain in place for more than a year.

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