HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As Americans prepare to turn the page on the calendar, many are hoping we can soon also close the chapter on the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it may not happen that quickly, but there is some encouraging optimism from two of the Houston-area's most trusted medical professionals.
First, the city of Houston received its first delivery of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Dr. David Persse, the city's health authority, said though he isn't eligible for a vaccination yet, he plans on getting it "as soon as he can."
He urged those who qualify to get the vaccine to take advantage of that and get vaccinated when they are contacted about it.
"This is the beginning of the end. We still have a lot of work to do," Persse said. "I would like to encourage everyone who is eligible to get COVID-19 to get vaccinated. This is going to help you personally because it's going to protect you."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus this year.
Meanwhile, in an in-depth interview with Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said as of Monday, positive cases are still rising.
"This is one of the worst parts of the worst epidemic the U.S. has seen in years," said Hotez.
But much like Persse, Hotez believes the COVID-19 vaccine brings a sense of hope.
While he said the national vaccination program is complicated and won't come without problems, he too is optimistic that in terms of the health crisis, the spring of 2021 will be much different.
"It's hard to imagine it could get much worse, that is the hope, and I think there is some truth to that," Hotez explained. "I think February will be better than January, March will be better than February, I think April will be better than March. With each passing month, you'll see a gradual improvement in the quality of life in this country, but it's not an 'on' or 'off' switch. It will be gradual and people will have to be patient until we get everybody vaccinated."
So what will 2021 look like? Hotez believes the new year looks promising, but it may come with some obstacles.
"I think this time next year, if we have a significant percentage of the population [vaccinated] as projected, I think we'll be in a much, much better situation," he said. "I think people will be going back to work on a regular basis. Whether or not we'll still need masks or some level of social distancing, that's not impossible. But I think a year from now, life is going to look much better across the country, assuming of course, there's no new escape variance that emerge because of the virus mutation. I think that's pretty unlikely."