By Juli McDonald

BOSTON (CBS) – Researchers at Harvard University say states like New York and Massachusetts have worked hard to turn the coronavirus pandemic tide. In other parts of the country, mitigation practices like masks and social distancing are nearly non-existent.

“I think if we loosen up and proceed as normal now, we will be slammed in the fall. Schools will be shut down; we will all be locked up for six months,” said global health expert and Harvard professor Dr. Ashish Jha.

As suggestions and scenarios swirl regarding what life will look like come September, Dr. Jha believes the northeast could potentially be like a separate society.

Harvard professor Dr. Ashish Jha (WBZ-TV)

“There are few if any places in the world that have the kinds of outbreaks Arizona and Texas and Florida are having. Yet you still have people who are in denial who think this is nothing worse than the flu; that it’s no big deal. [The United States is] the global hotspot. It continues to surprise me how much misinformation there is out there,” he said.

Dr. Jha applauds strict shutdowns and cautious reopening phases that have supported more positive trends in the northeast, but says we are far from being in the clear.

“The fall is going to be a hard time. We will be spending a lot more time indoors. The flu season is going to be back. Covid is not going to be gone and we’re not going to have a vaccine,” he added.

Dr. Jha does believe the return to school in Massachusetts could almost look normal – IF August Covid numbers go way down, and if communities do not ease up.

“Packed bars are a terrible idea. Packed indoor dining – terrible idea. I don’t think gyms should be open. If we do a good job – if we have great leadership and real vigilance and data driven policies, we can get through the fall pretty effectively without having to shut the whole state down and without losing a lot of lives.”

Juli McDonald

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