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What comes next in the COVID pandemic?

What comes next in the COVID pandemic? The simple truth is that we do not know yet.

The omicron surge will end and cases will fall back down to lower levels. But what happens next will depend on several factors.

Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA's vaccine advisory committee believes omicron will soon be on its way out. But what variant will show up next?

"There's a good likelihood we're gonna see another serious COVID wave of a new variant TBD, to be determined, that's gonna start in the summer," Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Peter Hotez said.

Read: Michigan hospital officials cite first signs of early progress since COVID omicron surge

The ultimate question right now is whether those who have developed antibodies to omicron will still be protected against the next variant. If they were, it would be a major step forward. If they're not, it would be a setback.

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"It's an open question as to whether or not omicron is going to be the 'live virus vaccination' that everyone is hoping for because you have such a great deal of variability with new variants emerging," Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

In the meantime, experts caution against taking omicron too lightly. People who are vaccinated and boosted are far less likely to require hospitalization or fall seriously ill.

Read: Michigan reports 86,009 new COVID cases, 501 deaths - average of 17,202 cases per day

The big hope right now is that the next variant will also be milder, vaccines will continue to be effective and we can move closer to COVID being more like the flu. We can only wait and see.

What about the antiviral medications that were recently authorized?

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Those could have a big impact. Pfizer's PAXLOVID in particular was very effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death. Right now the supply is very limited but as more doses become available, it could also move us in a better direction.

Researchers are hopeful that those drugs will remain effective, even as new variants emerge.

Read: Complete Michigan COVID coverage

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