COVID-19 could permanently increase the amount of illness the health care system handles

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Health care workers in the COVID-19 unit in Houston, Texas. | Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP via Getty Images

After the first nine months battling COVID-19, it’s clear that we’ll probably be dealing with COVID-19 forever. That means the public health system in the US will have to change to accommodate it and permanently incorporate COVID-19 into doctors’ offices, virus surveillance, and hospital planning.

“It is going to become part of our daily, or certainly seasonal, reality within the healthcare system and within the country,” says Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate professor at the Brown University department of emergency medicine. That means adjustments to how we diagnose respiratory diseases, how we do surveillance for COVID-19, and how many hospital beds we have available.

The US health care system has adjusted to new,…

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