The state of the COVID pandemic in the U.S. has gotten much better compared to just two months ago. New daily cases have dropped considerably since hitting their highest point in early January, just as the national pace of vaccinations has hit about 2.2 million doses per day as of March 8, NPR reports. But during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on March 7, Michael Osterholm, MD, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, warned that the potential for another COVID surge remains despite the recent good news, likely hitting in a matter of weeks. Read on to see when and why he believes conditions are about to take a turn for the worse, and for more on when life might finally be able to get back to normal, check out This Is When the COVID Pandemic Will Be Completely Over, Experts Say.
Vaccinations are picking up speed, but not in time to stop another surge.
After praising the recent increase in the pace of vaccinations, Osterholm still warned that more than half of senior citizens—who remain one of the groups most vulnerable to the disease—have either not been vaccinated or only received one dose, leaving them exposed to the contagious new variants. “At 2.9 to 3 million doses of vaccine a day over the next six to 14 weeks, when this surge is likely to happen, is not going to really take care of the problem at all,” he predicted. And for more vaccine news you need to know, check out Dr. Fauci Says Your COVID Vaccine Protects You For This Long.
Figures show that new variants are likely about to cause a spike in cases.
When asked by host Chuck Todd about the “fork in the road” the pandemic seems to be at, Osterholm described the current atmosphere in the country as being “in the eye of the hurricane … It appears that things are going very well. You can see blue skies.”
But he cautioned that despite current conditions, there was evidence that there is trouble ahead and a dangerous threshold is about to be passed. “Last time I was on your show four weeks ago, the [U.K. strain] B.1.1.7. variants made up about 1-4 percent of the viruses we were seeing in communities across the country,” he said. “Today, it’s up to 30-40 percent. And what we’ve seen in Europe, when we hit that 50 percent mark, you see cases surge.” And to see what Fauci recently said on the subject, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is the Sign That We’ll Have Another COVID Surge.
Dr. Fauci has also recently warned of another spike in cases.
Osterholm wasn’t alone in his troubling forecast. During an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation on March 7, Chief White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, explained that a fourth wave of coronavirus cases could be about to hit the U.S., based on the pattern of previous surges.
“Historically, if you look back at the different surges we’ve had, when [daily cases] come down and then start to plateau at a very high level, plateauing at a level of 60 to 70,000 new cases per day is not an acceptable level. That is really very high,” he cautioned. “And if you look at what happened in Europe a few weeks ago, they’re usually a couple of weeks ahead of us in these patterns, they were coming down too, then they plateaued. And over the last week or so, they’ve had about a 9 percent increase in cases.” And for more on where cases are climbing, check out This Is How High the COVID Risk Level Is in Your State, Data Shows.
Osterholm warns that now is not the time to relax public health measures.
Osterholm’s warning comes as states across the U.S. have begun to relax or remove COVID restrictions such as mask mandates and limits on indoor dining. Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, and Texas have all recently dropped certain mitigation measures, ABC News reports.
He echoed his colleagues’ warnings that precarious conditions make now the worst time to loosen protective measures. “We do have to keep America as safe as we can from this virus by not letting up on any of the public health measures we’ve taken,” he urged. “And we need to get people vaccinated as quickly as we can.”And for more on vaccine guidance you need to know, check out Don’t Do This Two Hours Before or After Your Vaccine, Doctors Warn.