'Is this ever going to end?' UW Health expert says COVID-19 isn't going away any time soon

NOW: ’Is this ever going to end?’ UW Health expert says COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon

MILWAUKEE, WIS (CBS 58) - We’re less than a week away from Christmas and COVID-19 isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The virus is spreading across the country at a rapid rate. This can be a tough reality for many who thought we'd be mask-less and back to normal this holiday season.

Sunday morning, Dec. 19, 1,900 graduates from UWM received their degrees. Commencement ceremonies have been virtual since the start of the pandemic. This was the first in-person ceremony at Panther Arena. They also streamed the ceremony for anyone who preferred to watch virtually.

The University of Wisconsin also held its first in-person commencement ceremony Sunday morning. Just over 1,800 students earned their degrees inside the Kohl Center.

Many are wondering if these in-person ceremonies will continue as the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout Wisconsin. Health officials are preparing for what could be a combination of Omicron, Delta and flu cases at the same time. CBS 58 spoke with Dr. Bill Hartman of UW Health who says the virus will be sticking around for quite some time.

"You know I wish I had that crystal ball because I think all of us want it to end. Some are trying to get back to normal and forget the masks. Unfortunately, from a public health standpoint, masking is something that is still very important and something that we should still keep in our back pocket so that when we go to church when we go to the store when we go on an airplane, we have that mask to keep us safe," said Hartman.

Hartman says masks continue to be a useful tool in the fight against COVID-19.

"I do think that it's important when you're inside a place to wear a mask, especially when there are others in that environment that you don't know. Masks continue to be a very inexpensive, safe way to keep that virus out of you..as well as preventing you if you have it from spreading that virus to somebody else," explained Hartman.

Hartman is running pediatric COVID-19 vaccine trials at UW Health.

"Kids from six months to about 5-years-old to see what the effectiveness and the safety profile is of the vaccine in these young kids. If they contract COVID what's the safety profile look like? These are the important questions we want answers to and we don' want to jump the gun and say it's more effective than it is without really knowing," said Hartman.

Hartman advises everyone to get the booster shot as soon as they can, as younger people are being admitted to hospitals with the virus. He says it's important if you plan to get together with loved ones this holiday season.

"At a time like Christmas, it’s a good time to get together… just do it safely. Be vigilant, If you're in a place where you're not sure everyone is vaccinated, consider wearing the mask. But by all means, it's not too late to get that booster, get that booster shot," advised Hartman.

The Milwaukee Wave Professional Indoor Soccer Team had to postpone their much-anticipated home opened game scheduled yesterday against the Baltimore Blast after several players and staff tested positive for the virus. The rescheduled date has yet to be determined.

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