With some neighborhoods looking “back to normal,” why are some virus experts freaking out about the coronavirus pandemic? The answer is, despite cases ebbing, there are still a jaw-dropping number of cases today, and the more the virus spreads, the more it might mutate into something else, something even the vaccines can’t stop. We need the 65 million unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated. Until they do, how can you stay safe? Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, appeared on the Morning News with Susie Jones. Read on for six life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Warned Osterholm: “The important message here is another surge will come back again if we don’t get more people vaccinated right now. We still have 65 million Americans in this country who could be vaccinated, who are not. And so while everything seems to be becoming quiet again, remember this is exactly the same place we were in last May and June, everybody thought it was over with done. And then we saw what happened with that surge. So we still have an urgent need to get people vaccinated so that we don’t have another surge like this in December or January or February. And that’s a hard message to get across right now. And everybody feels like, ah, we’re done, but we’re not.”
“First of all, the surge in cases that occurs with COVID-19—where you suddenly see a big increase in cases, and then usually for a period of six to eight weeks, it hits a peak and comes back down again—that is not impacted by vaccine in terms of when it starts and when it stops. We don’t understand exactly why that happened, but the vaccine has a tremendous impact on how big that curve gets, how many cases fit into that time period,” said Osterholm. “So I want to be really clear. A vaccine is absolutely critical, but why it starts and stops—we don’t know. We’ve just watched it literally sweep through many parts of the United States as it started in the South, moved to the Southeast, started at the same time, the Northwestern states moved Eastward. It just covered state after state after state. And again, the six to eight week kind of cycle I talked about occurred. So fortunately in Minnesota, right now, Northern Wisconsin, Northern Michigan, North Dakota, we’re now on that downside of the curve, it’s coming down, but” it could come back, he warned.
“This particular virus surely must cause all of us in the public health and research worlds to have a sense of humility, because what it is doing, frankly, is something that in many cases we’re not in control of—meaning like this surge when they occur and when they end. But again, vaccine can make a big difference in what the search looks like, but, you know, last June, you may recall, up to that period, I had been saying for some time that in March, April and May, that the darkest days of the pandemic could still be ahead of us. And many people just didn’t want to believe that. They, and I based it on just observing what this virus had been doing, not just in the United States, but around the world, countries who were on their fifth surge activity at that point. And then of course, Delta emerged the much more infectious virus of all the ones we’ve had so far with COVID and you saw what happened. We went from less than a thousand cases a day to 160 to 170,000 cases a day in July, August compared to that time, same time, in May. So I think we can expect that to happen.”
“Variants, yes, this virus continues to mutate every time there’s a new infection and start to grow in someone’s body,” said Osterholm. It’s like another throw at the genetic roulette table. You get more mutants coming out of it. And so we do worry about that. Will these mutants potentially have the ability to be more infectious? Will they possibly impact on how well the vaccine protects or if you’ve had an infection itself, natural immunity that occurs from that? And so, it is a challenge for us, but we know we can do so much about this. Just getting people vaccinated.”
“Well, kids fortunately now are much less likely to get seriously ill when they get infected. They still do. Our hospitals have been full of kids. We’ve had a number of deaths and kids in the country. So I don’t want to minimize the impact on kids, but fortunately they get less severely ill compared to their parents or grandparents, so we still want to vaccinate them, but they serve as a very important source of virus in the community. We’ve had a number of cases, many cases where grandpa and grandma or mom and dad got infected from their child who picked it up at school. And so we want to get these kids vaccinated to protect themselves, but also to help protect the community. I mean, there, I can’t tell you how many times families have been extremely distraught when they realize that there are a younger child who had a milder COVID illness transmitted to mom or dad or grandpa and grandma, and they got severely ill and in some cases died. So the vaccine now really will help us eliminate or surely reduce the impact of the virus transmission on these young kids.”
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.