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2021 Will Be ‘A Race Between Vaccination And This New Variant,’ Says Northeastern Professor

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WGBH, January 2021

Despite COVID-19 case numbers reaching well into the thousands each day, the post-holiday season surge was not as bad as many expected, according to a new study from Northeastern, Harvard, Northwestern and Rutgers Universities. GBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Northeastern University political science and computer science professor David Lazer about the numbers and his outlook for 2021. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: So what exactly happened over the holidays? Some people say it could have been worse and that the wave has crested; others say because of gathering over the holidays and the trends here with COVID — the new strain — that we are entering a dark winter that will see much worse conditions.

David Lazer: I think there’s some truth to all of the above. I think that, to some extent, people did heed the calls to not gather for the holidays. We found in our survey 70 percent of people said that they essentially spent the holidays alone or just with people in their households. In Massachusetts, it was actually a little better still; around 75 percent said that they didn’t gather with people from other households during the holiday. That’s the good news, and we also have more good news, which is that people in the country have tightened up their social distancing behaviors since earlier in the fall and they are also wearing masks more. So that’s all good news, and I think as a result of some of that, the fall and early winter wave was not as bad as it could be. However, there is bad news, which is that we have these new variants coming, and we do have a very hard few months ahead of us.

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