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Harvard pandemic expert Ashish Jha takes a more optimistic view of the fall and winter

COVID-19: Where do we go from here?
Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, joins to offer insight into the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

With many experts predicting serious trouble as the nation heads into fall and winter without getting the coronavirus pandemic under control, one Harvard medical professor sees signs of hope.


The consensus view is that the coronavirus will still be raging as the flu season arrives, leading to a “horrible fall and winter. Lots of people dying, hospitals in big trouble, and we’re largely shut at home,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, on Thursday in a Boston Globe Op-Talk. “That is a view that lots of very smart people believe is most likely.”

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But Jha said he was “more optimistic than that.”

He said the pandemic seemed to be easing in the hard-hit South, and people have started to comply better with public health measures such as mask-wearing. He also noted that even in states that are doing relatively well, like Massachusetts and Rhode Island, governors have taken measures to “pull back” on reopening plans.

“I am optimistic that these governors are not going to let things get out of control,” he said.

He also said he was optimistic about a “whole new set of technologies around testing, which will make testing much more widely available.... I’m also hoping that all the social distancing we’re doing, hand washing, etc., will make a real difference in terms of flu spread and we’ll end up having a much milder flu season.”

“And so my optimistic view is we go into the fall and winter, if we do our job right, in reasonably good shape,” he said. “Hopefully, we have a good flu vaccine, which everybody should take. And then ... maybe by November, December into January we start getting a vaccine. Some people start getting vaccinated, and life starts turning around for a bit better — not normal — but then we can get through the winter without too much suffering.”

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Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.