Image by Images via Pixabay/Victor Tangermann

According to one of the world's foremost pandemic experts, everyone will need to stay vigilant for years in order to truly beat the coronavirus.

Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and a prominent government advisor on pandemic preparedness, told CNET that wearing masks and some degree of social distancing will be necessary for years — and that to beat the disease, we'd need to lock down the country again.

"I think what's important is that there's going to be no summertime lull with a big wave in the fall," Toner told CNET. "It's clear that we are having a significant resurgence of cases in the summer, and they'll get bigger. And it'll keep going until we lock things down again."

In Toner's view, the U.S. government can't act quickly enough. While other countries managed their COVID-19 outbreaks comparatively swiftly, Toner sees the American response to the pandemic as a resounding failure across the board.

"The US response has been extraordinarily disappointing and wrongheaded," Toner told CNET. "Whenever there's been an opportunity to do the right thing, we seem to have done the wrong thing. The US has to recognize that it is competing for first or second position of the worst affected country in the world."

Unfortunately, mass inoculation — one of the major requirements for actually ending the pandemic — may not happen until 2022, CNET reports. So above all else, Toner says that we need to get used to the idea of wearing masks in public. And he suggests those who complain about masks get on board pronto.

"They will get over it," he said of the anti-mask crowd. "It's just a question of how many people get sick and die before they get over it."