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When will life return to normal? UW expert says it will take time

Signs of pre-pandemic life are returning, but the changes will be gradual, UW professor Dr. Pottinger believes.

SEATTLE — The roadmap to pre-pandemic normalcy is taking shape. But one Seattle expert warns it's going to take time. 

Expanded vaccine eligibility may signal a green light, but don't hit the gas yet.

"A question we get all the time: How do we get back to normal? And to me, the answer is more vaccinations,” said Dr. Paul Pottinger, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at UW Medicine. 

Pottinger said it won't be a flip of the switch, as mass vaccinations ramp up.

"I think it's gonna be a while before we can really feel safe and be safe going to large congregate events, like a sporting event and music event, where there are people shouting and hooting and hollering,” said Pottinger.

Increased restaurant capacities and lifted restrictions are dependent on the data and equitable access to vaccines.

”What we're looking for are infections to reduce, severity of infections to reduce, including hospitalization and death, and also to see that the transmission of new variants or mutations is not on the rise,” said Pottinger. 

The reality is “normal” will form gradually, with small changes.

”We're in a very precarious time right now where people are feeling safer, and I think, that makes me very happy. But I don't want them to feel so safe that they become sloppy or less diligent with those basic safety features,” said Pottinger.

Maintaining control of new variants and keeping hospitalization rates low will be key, especially as scientists determine when the masks can finally come off.

"That is not going to happen in the middle of April. That's going to happen, I would hope, over the course of the late summer in the fall, that would be my prediction,” said Pottinger.