By Andy Sheehan

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In these dark days of the coronavirus, there are beginning to be some glimmers of hope. The virus seems to be peaking in some European countries and social distancing seems to be working in southwestern Pennsylvania.

But what happens after it declines? CMU professor Wesley Pegden says there’s good news and bad news about our fight against the coronavirus.

The good news is social distancing is working. The not-so-good news is that other challenges lie ahead.

“In the good news, social distancing definitely works,” said Pegden. “We’re going to see in the near term death and infections come down across the country.”

Around the world and especially right here in southwestern Pennsylvania, experts agree that social distancing is keeping the virus in check. But after it peaks, flattens and decreases, CMU professor Wesley Pegden says we’ll face a new slate of challenges.

“I think that a lot of the public has the impression that after two months, things will start to open up, and by September, we should expect things to be basically normal,” he said. “And that’s not the case at all.”

“People should be prepared that there’s going to be hard decisions and hard trade-offs to be made to keep things under control.”

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Pedgen and his wife, Pitt biology professor Maria Chikina, say the coronoavirus will still be lurking in the background, threatening to infect and spike again. And we don’t yet know what will keep it contained.

Measures under consideration are tracing all the people who came in contact with a newly infected person or isolating at-risk people like the elderly.

“You could imagine a situation where, for example, schools try to operate, but only with teachers under a certain age,” he says.

“Which would be very difficult, right? It would force all sorts of difficult choices, but those are the kind of choices society will have to think about to make things function in some sort of reasonable way.”

Pegden says we will not approach what we once viewed as normal life until we have a vaccine, which he says it a year or two away.

“The way we’re doing it now is buying us time,” he says. “In the future, we still have to have some other way to change the game. Whether it’s a a vaccine or reducing mortality rates with some other treatment, building up hospital capacity or finding some way to relax society that will work for us.”

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