RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A professor at North Carolina State University spent more than a decade modeling pandemics using everything from policy making to human behavior. 

Professor Jule Swann said we need to mentally prepare for the next few years.

“We’re in a multiple year World War and that’s how I need to think about it and that’s how I need to prepare. Because if I’m not expecting it to end and it then it goes on then it’s better than if the reverse is true,” she said.

Swann serves as a Doug Allison Distinguished Professor & Department Head, Fitts Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Scientists expect more COVID-19 variants beyond omicron that can potentially be more dangerous.

That means we should expect many COVID prevention protocols to remain in place.  

“COVID is not going away anytime soon and I think what we need to do is ask ourselves as a collective community what measures we’re willing to take to protect each other,” said Dr. Erica Pettigrew,  UNC Health family practitioner and medical director of the Orange County Health Department. “We know that masking works, we know that vaccination works, we know that staying home when sick works and it works even better if people do all of those things together,” she said.

Those rules also apply to the vaccinated.  

“I’m expecting that we may need to build up immunity over more than one variant to really fully be able to go back to the way things were maybe five years ago. But along the way we can find many ways to get life close to back to normal,” said Swann.

Fighting COVID misinformation is also an obstacle to returning to the life we once knew.

“And I do think that that spread of misinformation is also associated with lives lost during the pandemic. We’re going to have to come up with new ways of addressing that for the future,” Swann said.

COVID mitigation measures also help contain the rising number of hospitalizations.

Those numbers are beginning to see an uptick that is related to the delta variant.

Omicron could eventually add to the number of people needing additional care.

“We need to do what we can to at the very least to protect our hospitals from being overrun.”

That’s one of the most dangerous aspects of this and we certainly are getting some warning signs now that we could be heading in that direction again over this winter,” said Pettigrew.