(WTRF) – A new year means we look ahead to the future. 

For medical experts, they’re evaluating what the next year will look like with COVID-19. 

Now there’s the new XBB.1.5 Omicron variant that’s making up a large portion of cases across the country. 

What we know about XBB.1.5, the dominant COVID variant in the US

Dr. Michael Stevens, who is the System Healthcare Epidemiologist with WVU Health System explained it looks like COVID is here to stay. 

He said the virus will become something we contend with each year like we deal with the flu, but there is still a lot of research to be done. 

Probably what that means we will periodically have to get a vaccine that will protect us against COVID. The question is, is that yearly like the flu shot? Is that every six-months? We don’t know yet. 

Dr. Michael Stevens, System Healthcare Epidemiologist, WVU Health System

Dr. Stevens said he knows a lot of people have COVID fatigue, which means vaccination numbers are low. In fact, he says less than 15% of people who are eligible for the Bivalent boosters have received them. So, it’s unlikely we will vaccinate ourselves out of COVID-19.

With that being said, there’s a new question to answer.

How can we move forward without re-adopting all those mitigation strategies without shutting the world down?

Dr. Michael Stevens, System Healthcare Epidemiologist, WVU Health System

Dr. Stevens advised that people get vaccinated for both COVID and the flu.

You can protect yourselves. You can protect the ones you love. You can protect the vulnerable among us by getting vaccinated.

Dr. Michael Stevens, System Healthcare Epidemiologist, WVU Health System

He also recommended to pay attention to all public health guidance from the CDC and your local health department. That means if masks are recommended in certain scenarios, wear them.