Dr. Michael Osterholm, who has been an informal advisor to Gov. Tim Walz throughout the pandemic, believes schools should mandate COVID vaccines and “exclude” unvaccinated teachers and students.
Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, appeared on Chad Hartman’s WCCO Radio show to discuss the Delta variant and the approach schools should take to mitigate its spread.
His approach is straightforward: “We got to get vaccinated, vaccinated, vaccinated.”
“The first and most important thing is to get the faculty, staff, etc., vaccinated and to get those 12 years of age and older vaccinated in our junior high and high school. And then finally family members,” he said.
As for those who choose not to get vaccinated, Osterholm’s approach is similarly straightforward: “Teachers, staff, students [who don’t get vaccinated] should be excluded from school.”
Speaking about the Delta variant itself, the epidemiologist said he had “tremendous concerns” about its impact in schools.
“I think it’s going to fundamentally change the whole school epidemiology from a year ago when we saw very little transmission, at least limited transmission, with this virus in school systems,” he opined.
Viruses, however, tend to weaken in severity as they become more transmissible, and school-aged children themselves do not appear to be at higher risk for serious illness and death.
Osterholm is a former advisor on President Joe Biden’s COVID task force and is known for his alarmist messaging. In November 2020, for example, he supported an additional four to six week lockdown to curb the winter spread, though Biden and others preferred to push for increased testing and support mask mandates instead.
More recently, Osterholm met with Minnesota Vikings players and coaches to encourage vaccination and field questions. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has made headlines for his unwillingness to get vaccinated, did not appear to change his mind following the session with Osterholm.
“It was a great meeting. It was informative. And it was what it was,” he said in response to a reporter asking what he learned.