FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — COVID-19’s meteoric rise to a global pandemic left countries, states and cities scrambling to fight the virus. Mask mandates and lockdowns became a new normal as schools and businesses learned how to operate in a seemingly alien world.

Largely, the world returned to normal following the rollout of vaccines, but with cases rising again nationally, could we return to those lockdowns and mandates in any capacity?

“I think we learned a lot from lockdown previously, and if I had to guess today I would say that we’re not heading toward a lockdown,” said Dr. Thomas Gutwein, the Allen County Health Commissioner. “There a lot of other things we do before a lockdown … those things that we know that are effective to decrease the transmission of the virus.”

He said lockdowns and mandates don’t necessarily have to do with rising numbers, but with whether or not medical infrastructure can handle the total amount of sick.

“The things that would require us to go to a lockdown is if the health systems in the community were overwhelmed and we were not able to manage the patient populations that need health care,” Gutwein said.

Even with local numbers rising the past few months, the total numbers from this summer and last summer are completely different stories.

Estimated total of positive COVID-19 cases per the Allen County Health Department showing the summers of 2022 and 2023.

Besides cases being much lower, symptoms also seem to be affecting those infected in much milder ways when compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

“We do have a lot more COVID today in the community that we did a month ago, but the severity of it is not requiring a lot of hospitalizations,” Gutwein said. “The younger population and the healthier population really don’t have a lot to worry about.”

It’s something that local hospitals have noticed as well.

“We have not seen an increase in COVID-related hospital admissions but visits have risen slightly over the past two weeks at our urgent care sites. In general, the symptoms appear to be less serious than in the past,” wrote a Lutheran Health official to WANE 15.

Ultimately, Gutwein thinks COVID-19 may just become something we deal with regularly, much like the flu or the common cold.

“I feel 100% it will continue to be around for quite some time,” Gutwein said. “If you have symptoms consistent with either the flu or COVID you can test yourself, or get tested at a health care facility, and then you just take some days off work and most people are going to do absolutely well.”

Gutwein did say that much like flu shots and RSV vaccines are targeted at the youth, special care should still be taken for elderly and otherwise at-risk people regarding COVID-19.