COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As mask mandates start to fall, experts say it’s time to enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic – learning to live with the virus.

Experts say this phase will be all about deciding what is best for you.

Columbus residents like Elijah Salahuddin said with so much information floating around, he tries to simplify it in a way he can understand.

“Am I confused? Yeah. Do I know what’s going on? Not really,” Salahuddin said. “But that’s when you take the opportunity to educate yourself.”

When talking about what comes next in the COVID-19 pandemic, Isabella Vettinger said she wishes there was a definitive answer for this new chapter but realizes everyone deserves a choice.

“There needs to be progression,” Vettinger said. “I think there just needs to be some smartness with how we move forward.”

Infectious Disease Physician at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Mahdee Sobhanie, said with many mask mandates no longer in place, it’s time to learn how to live with the virus.

He wants to stress that living with the virus doesn’t mean forgetting that COVID-19 exists because COVID-19 will always exist even if it isn’t at the height it once was.

“So that’s why when we say, ‘We have to learn to live with the virus,’ we are aware that COVID is going to continue to exist, there are different variants that are going to occur, and that’s why we have to continue to be cognizant of what the realities are that we face,” Sobhanie said.

He said the vaccine is doing a good job holding up against the variants so far.

Sobhanie said that, eventually, COVID-19 will turn into another virus like the flu, but we aren’t quite there yet.

“I think it’s kind of hard to tell when, ‘Oh it’s going to be COVID season,’” Sobhanie said. “I think we are going through a lot of peaks and surges, so we have to be mindful of our behaviors based on what we see.”

He said learning to live with the virus is figuring out what is the best protection method for you. Sobhanie added there are now a number of COVID-19 therapies like the monoclonal treatment or oral pills, but that people should talk with their primary care doctors before doing any of those.

“Definitely this is a time when you should be getting a primary care physician,” Sobhanie said. “You should have somebody where you sit down and talk about your health. Everybody’s immune system responds differently in terms of their underlying conditions.”

He said there is still a big concern for those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or cancer.

People with those conditions should not be afraid to wear a mask in public or while traveling, Sobhanie said.