The director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, who served on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board during the presidential transition, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that there could be another potential explosion in new cases if mutated, more contagious variants of the virus take hold nationwide.
Cooper asked Osterholm to put the current phase of the public health crisis into baseball terms.
“I’m certainly not a sports expert, but I do know that there are nine innings in a baseball game. What inning is this pandemic in?” Cooper said.
“I still think we’re in the bottom of the third or the top of the fourth,” Osterholm said. “You know, I worry the next six to 14 weeks could be the darkest weeks of the pandemic.”
“We’re down now to 150,000 cases a day, which seems down,” he continued. “Remember when 70,000 or 32,000 cases a day seemed high? And if this variant takes off here in North America like it has throughout Europe, I think we could be seeing numbers much, much higher than we’ve had to date.”
Osterholm said an eruption in the number of infections could hinder the work of COVID-19 vaccines.
“We just won’t have enough out in time,” he said. “If we vaccinate everybody that the government has said the vaccine will be available for through April, that’s only about 12% of the U.S. population. This variant could do a great deal of harm in that time.”
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he concluded. “I sure hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does it’s going to be a long few weeks ahead of us.”
Osterholm echoed those fears on MSNBC, telling anchor Stephanie Ruhle on Tuesday that “the very worst of the pandemic is yet before us,” citing the “enormous challenge” of the new variants. (Watch the clip below.)
“I’m not at all optimistic,” he said.
The coronavirus has now killed more than 425,000 people nationwide. There have been 100 million confirmed cases around the globe, with more than a quarter of them (upwards of 25.4 million) in the United States.
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