Dr. John Klein

Dr. John Klein, vice dean of research at the University of Louisville School of Medicine (via Webex)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With the pace of highly effective vaccines finding their way into people’s arms, Louisville and the broader United States could start to experience the benefits of “herd immunity” from COVID-19 this summer, according to Dr. Jon Klein, vice dean of research at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

But Klein fears that societal behavior – mask wearing, avoiding crowds, washing hands – is loosening faster than shots are being administered, meaning infections and illness could ramp up in the next few months.

“We are so close to being able to feel like we’re winning. And it requires eight weeks more of masking and distancing and limiting who we encounter and our travel -- maybe even four more weeks,” Klein says on the latest episode of Uncovered, our news podcast. “… I hate to put it this way, but what’s the price that will pay in the next 8-12 weeks to get to a July where things are much, much better?”

On the podcast, Klein discusses the state of pandemic in the Louisville area and nationally, tackling questions such as whether COVID-19 vaccines will become an annual occurrence, the health risks for children and whether public schools will be back fulltime in the fall.

Listen for free below, or find Uncovered by WDRB on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotify or other podcast platforms. Remember to subscribe for future episodes and leave a review of the show.

Excerpts from the show:

WDRB.com’s Chris Otts: Will Louisville’s public schools be back fulltime in the fall?

Klein: It’s sheer speculation on my part, but I'm also generally an optimist about where we'll be Labor Day or thereabouts. I think, you know, barring once again, I gotta leave myself a little bit of an escape hatch here: Barring a disastrous variant rising up I think that, you know, by Labor Day, the world will look very, very different. In fact, I'm looking forward to really, you know, a good summer. I think we're gonna be able to, to not get completely back to normal around July 4, but I think a lot of things will be returning to normal by them. It's truthfully the next eight to twelve weeks that, you know, that wake me up in the middle of the night. Because I think we're going to have a period of time where things are going to get worse. ‘How worse’ is the big question. And even there, I'm an optimist. It’s become a cliché because repeat it so much, but this is a foot race between the rate that we're vaccinating people and, and the spread of the variants. And we're doing pretty well. I mean, 4 million people a day, and I think we can sustain 4 million per day. That's more than one out of every 60 people in the whole country is getting a vaccine in a single day. I mean, this is a tremendous accomplishment. And I think it's gonna get us to a point where we begin to see the leading edge of herd immunity sometime in June. And by that, I mean that herd immunity is not an on/off switch. We will begin to see early positive effects. When we get to say, 60% of the population, things will begin to slow down in a detectable way. I think, when we get to 60%-65%, when we get to that 75%, then we'll really begin to see some things happen. I really think that we will see some very positive developments at that point. So yeah. My guess work, which is worth everything people pay for it, if my guess work is accurate, then I suspect that kids will be back in school in the fall. I certainly hope I'm right.

Otts: Will we eradicate COVID-19?

Klein: Can you crowd it totally out? Can you completely eliminate it from from any what we call reservoir of infection? The answer is No, probably not. We're never going to reach that point is is the prevailing opinion from the virologists that I follow and listened to. But we'll get it to a point where the infections are manageable, because there's so few a number. And presumably, barring some disastrous mutation or variant of the virus, it will be easily managed medically as well.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.