MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the question we are all asking: When will things get back to normal?

Now that we are a year into the pandemic, WCCO gets some perspective on timing, from one of the leading experts, University of Minnesota professor Dr. Michael Osterholm.

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For the past year, the front porch is about as far as the Macks have traveled.

“We are still locked down, we still order a majority of our groceries, we connect with friends on Zoom and on the phone,” Ayolanda Mack of north Minneapolis said.

They’ve gotten lots of quality time, homeschool time and family mealtime but they’re yearning for the old days.

“When can we hug people who don’t live in our home safely without fear of the COVID germ that’s gonna get us,” Mack said.

Like many she’s wondering when travel, festival season and family gatherings can safely resume, so WCCO went to an expert.

“At this moment, the virus is in control,” Osterholm said.

The University of Minnesota professor, who is a COVID advisor to President Joe Biden, says it depends if there is a new variant that pops up that is not covered by the vaccine. And speaking of that vaccine…

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“If we have large segments of the population that say, ‘Oh I’m not gonna get the vaccinated now,’ we very well could see ongoing transmission that would make it more challenging to get back to that new normal,” Osterholm said.

The best-case scenario for the virus?

“We are gonna have lots of vaccine this summer and it’s just a matter of convincing some of our family, friends, colleagues and anyone else that they need to get the vaccine,” Osterholm said. “If that happens, we could be in a really good place this summer, particularly late summer.”

And for the Mack family, that could not come soon enough.

“I am looking forward to not being afraid. I don’t want to be afraid anymore,” Mack said.

Osterholm said a pandemic will happen again. He said it’s not if, but when, but hopefully next time we will be more prepared.

Osterholm predicts there will be a surge over the next two months in the UK variant. That variant is covered by the current vaccines.

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He says his message is that the vaccine is safe and there are no reasons to believe there could be long-term, down the road side effects. He says taking the vaccine could save your life.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield