Dr. Michael Osterholm is concerned the U.S. faces a “fourth wave” of COVID-19 cases.
“I believe that in some ways we’re almost in a new pandemic,” he said during an interview on Fox News Sunday.
The director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota claimed 749 schools in Minnesota have reported cases the last two weeks, which is almost 15% of the more than 5,000 public and private schools across the state.
He said the U.K.’s B117 variant is 50 to 100% more infectious and causes 50 to 60% more severe illness.
“It is a brand new ball game,” Osterholm said. “We’re going to have to reconsider what we’re doing now and how we’re doing this.”
Host Chris Wallace pushed back, asking, “As somebody who’s gotten fully vaccinated, I don’t know how to make sense of that. If you’re fully vaccinated, is it safe to get on an airplane or not?”
He conceded this was a “very fair critique,” then continued, “We do have a problem right now, from a public health messaging standpoint, trying to nuance that message. All we’re trying to do is get through this surge of cases that are going to occur over the next six to eight to ten weeks. Nobody wants to be the person to die three days before they were supposed to get their COVID shot. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
On the controversial “impending doom” statement by the CDC director Monday, he said, “Dr. Walensky was being a truth-teller. What she said is exactly right scientifically. What we’re doing in terms of our response to this virus is, in fact, a major challenge right now. So I congratulate her for her honesty with the public.”
When Wallace asked him about the virus spiking up in parts of the country that have not relaxed mask mandates, he argued that coronavirus’ viral trends demonstrate a “cycle of regional activity,” and “it won’t be long” before it may sweep across the country again.
Osterholm then went to NBC, which excitedly led with the “fourth wave” potential.
“At this time we really are in a category five hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world,” he told Chuck Todd. “In terms of the United States, we’re just at the beginning of this surge. 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.”
One of President Biden’s gloomiest public health experts, Osterholm used the term “worried” over and over during the seven-minute interview, while still complimenting the Biden administration multiple times.
Todd asked about closing schools, third vaccines, and wondered if “pre-pandemic normal” is ever “coming back.”
While a virus can spread regionally, it’s noteworthy that spikes are in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, where mask mandates continue, not in Texas and places where shutdowns have been rolled back.
Meanwhile, almost two million Minnesotans have received one dose of a COVID vaccine, and nearly 25% of the state’s population has completed both vaccinations. Health officials reported a single-day high of 85,573 vaccinations across the state Saturday. Deaths continue to fall too, as more than one-third of Americans have received at least one shot.
Dr. Scott Jensen, a former Minnesota state senator and current Republican candidate for governor, responded to Osterholm’s comments when speaking with Alpha News Sunday.
“In medicine we often find ourselves tracking surrogate markers which we later learn are not the real markers we should be tracking. I think rather than focusing so much on what he is looking at in terms of cases and variants, I am inclined to look at the death rate, the hospitalization use, the ICU use, and the fact that states that opened back up are not experiencing what he predicted,” said Jensen.
“Frankly, he confuses me and many leading authorities across the nation. With the number of people who have antibody production, cellular protection, intrinsic resistance, or have been vaccinated, it seems like we are moving in a good direction,” he added.
A.J. Kaufman is an Alpha News columnist. His work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Indianapolis Star, Israel National News, Orange County Register, St. Cloud Times, Star-Tribune, and across AIM Media Midwest and the Internet. Kaufman previously worked as a school teacher and military historian.