A top epidemiologist said Sunday the latest COVID-19 surge has put the world in “category 5 hurricane status” — and that the United States is on the brink of a fourth surge of the virus.
In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet The Press,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in the next two weeks, “we will see the highest number of cases reportedly globally.”
“At this time we really are in a category 5 hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world,” he said.
“In terms of the United States, we're just at the beginning of this surge,” he said. “We haven't even begun to see it yet. We have had over the course of the past year, surges of cases that occur in the upper Midwest and Northeast. We see big increases in cases through the southern Sunbelt states. Then the Northeast and Midwest come back. We're in the cycle where the Upper Midwest is just beginning to start this fourth surge.”
Osterholm praised the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, for being a “truth-teller” and saying that plane travel should be limited even with vaccination.
“Let me give an example on the airplane flight. When you get vaccinated, it's like buying a fireproof suit that works 99% of the time, but not all the time. Why walk into a big fire if you don't have to?” he said.
“I think [CDC] message was completely consistent, although it may have confused the public,” he added. “Get vaccinated, that's your fireproof suit. Don't put yourself in harm's way unnecessarily because it's not foolproof.”
According to Osterholm, the COVID variant from the U.K. is a big worry in Michigan and rest of the country now, noting however the current vaccine “works against it.”
“This B.1.1.7. variant, the one from the U.K., how it's 50% to 100% more infectious, causes more severe illness 50% to 60% of the time — this is almost like having a whole new pandemic descending upon it.”
The variant, he added, “is a brand new ball game.”
“In Minnesota, we're now seeing the other aspect of this B.1.1.7. variant that hasn't been talked much about. That's the fact it effects kids,” he said, adding, “We're going to have to reconsider what we're doing now and how we're doing this.”
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Osterholm said the United States is the only country currently experiencing this increasing number of cases due to this variant and at the same time, opening up, not closing down.”
“The two basically are going to collide, and we are going to see substantially increased number of cases,” he warned.
“I understand the absolute resistance in this country even to consider that and you know — it's kind of like trying to drink barbed wire — but the bottom line message of the virus is it's going to do what it's going to do, and we are going to have to respond somehow… back [up] on some of the restrictions that we've loosened up on."
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