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How long will coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis last? World-renowned expert offers perspective

Dr. Arnold Monto speaks with Local 4

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – How long will the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis last? That’s the question everyone is asking, and Local 4 turned to a world-renowned expert, who is also a professor and researcher at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, to get his input.

UPDATE -- March 25, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases total 2,295; death toll rises to 43

Dr. Arnold Monto has advised the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense on numerous outbreaks during his lengthy career. He was in Beijing during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pandemic.

Click here to learn more about SARS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monto said there are many lessons we can learn from past outbreaks.

“We have the experience of the first cousin on this virus -- the virus that caused SARS back in 2003, and they had no vaccine,” Monto said. “They had no antivirals, and they controlled it by social distancing."

Focus on short-term

Monto cautioned against making predictions.

“I think making predictions long-term is probably going to be wrong and will certainly not help us in trying to figure out what we should do short-term,” Monto said. “We have to reassess where we are on a regular basis and not make predictions of where we will be even in two to three weeks.

“I think we are going to have to tailor this to what goes on in our local areas. The unfortunate thing is we have had to respond by extreme measures.”

‘No quick fix’

Monto said because nobody has any immunity to the new virus, there is no quick fix.

“Learn about what is going on so you have a realistic view of what is going to happen,” Monto said. “I think we will come out of this better in some ways, but what is very clear is we are going to come out of this different.”

He said our greatest weapon in this fight is patience.

“The best thing we can do is to realize that there will be an end,” Monto said.

What we should do to fight

Back in 2003, experts all said SARS was going to be with us forever, and they were all wrong, according to Monto.

He isn’t saying that will necessarily be the case with COVID-19, but he said it’s one more example of why we shouldn’t focus on a specific time frame, because we simply don’t know what to expect.

Monto said we are doing the right things to get through the crisis, but we have to keep doing them.

He said while we don’t know a lot about the virus yet, we do know the overall way to control it is to keep people from being in contact with each other.


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