COVID-19 has spread significantly worldwide since it first emerged in China in December 2019, making it a global pandemic, per the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many states have continued to encourage social distancing and mask usage to try to prevent the spread of the virus. What's more: A vaccine for COVID-19 *seems* closer than ever before, according to reports. So, one question is likely on your mind a lot right now: When will this pandemic actually end—and is it sooner than we think?

The short answer is, no one can say for certain. But infectious disease specialists and researchers have some thoughts to help put this global health situation into perspective.

Honestly, it’s impossible to say if and when the coronavirus will die down because it’s a totally new virus, and therefore unpredictable, says Faheem Younus, MD, the chief of infectious diseases at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health. But pandemics have happened before, and they eventually pass as they become more contained, and as vaccines are developed and distributed. But researchers do look at past pandemics to make very baseline predictions about when it might end. In the past, pandemics have typically lasted between 12 and 36 months.

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