How long will we be social distancing? Baylor College expert weighs in

HOUSTON – The healthcare industry is learning more about the patients who are sick with coronavirus, including those in the younger population.

New insight also predicts how long Americans may have to social distance.

Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean at Baylor College of Medicine, is a leading researcher of infectious diseases. He is working on a vaccine for the coronavirus.

The new face of coronavirus

Dr. Hotez said a new face is emerging for the coronavirus in the United States.

"People living in poverty may be affected, including underrepresented minorities including African American populations," he said.

This is going to be yet a new twist, Dr. Hotez said.

The question for the coming weeks is what happens next.

How long will we be social distancing?

President Donald Trump predicted the government would be easing up on restrictions by Easter. Dr. Hotez said he doesn't think that is likely.

"I don't see how that happens given the infection will still be climbing in New York and even looking worse than it does now," Dr. Hotez said. "By then, we will see if there is a new infection beyond new Orleans and New York. I say, give it another month and reassess."

Dr. Hotez said, by the end of April, the United States should have a better idea of where this pandemic is headed.

If people don't keep up with the social distancing, Americans could see a large outbreak like in New York.

He added in cities like New York and New Orleans, where people live closer to each other, social distancing is harder.

Young people get sick too

Dr. Hotez has been vocal about disputing the fact that the coronavirus targets the older population.

"In the United States, up to half of those in ICU are under the are of 54," he said. "America is not playing by the same rules as China. This is the reason that is important for young adults to be safe. We don't know why. The word out to young adults is - you are at risk."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 20% of hospitalized patients in the United States are under the age of 44. And, often infected people without symptoms are spreading the illness to others.

Other key takeaways from our interview with Dr. Hotez include:

  • The psychological impact of social distancing is causing stress on people. He suggested people can spend some time outdoors.
  • Studies show coronavirus can live on some surfaces for several days.
  • Blood donations are not likely to transmit the virus.
  • A key takeaway from China and Italy is to reduce the number of hospital patients is to practice social distancing.