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Virus Expert Issues This "Desperate" Warning

"This surge could actually get substantially higher," Dr. Osterholm says.

The Delta variant of COVID isn't done with America yet—and the summer spike in cases could spread outside hotspots now that schools are back in session, one virus expert warns. "I can honestly say that this surge could actually get substantially higher," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on the latest episode of his podcast. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


Healthcare Systems Are Stressed

Doctors and nurses are working on corona virus/covid-19 infected patient in the ICU/ hospital.

"Recent reports out of Florida indicate that people who are often desperately ill are waiting in line for more than two hours to receive monoclonal antibodies," said Osterholm. "We have many reports of individuals who have other health conditions—heart attacks, unintentional injuries, falls, accidents—who can't be seen in a timely manner in the healthcare systems. They may not be broken, but boy, they're been really bent."


87% Of The Country Could Be in Trouble

An ambulance on an emergency call driving through the town center of Fairhope

Osterholm noted that the states that have led the Delta surge—Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, and Nevada—have seen their caseloads start to plateau or drop. "The question is, though, does that mean that the surge is over, and does that mean we'll see over the next several weeks, a rapid drop in case numbers, or will something else happen?" he said. "And that something else I think is the big unknown. If you look at the population of those states I just mentioned, they only make up 12.5% of the US population. So what are the other states that have 87.5% of the population going to look like over the course of the next three to five weeks?"

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Don't Expect a Return to Earlier Numbers

Two professional doctors in blue medical uniform standing in front of each other in hospital corridor and looking thoughtful

"I just don't know where the surge is going to go," said Osterholm. "The other thing I can't answer: Is this going to be like the countries—India, South Africa, UK—where after having the Delta surge from point A to get to the peak of point B, it doesn't come back down to point A again. It goes to point C, as we saw in England—where instead of going back to 1,000 or 2,000 cases, that peak of 47,000 is now continuing at 32,000 cases."

He added: "Over the course of the next weeks to several months, do not expect to see us go back to a baseline of May and June. Ain't going to happen. The question is, How high will that peak get? How long will it last? And once it comes down, what will be the baseline that it'll eventually go back to?"

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Vaccines Are "Incredibly Safe"

Happy vaccinated woman gesturing thumbs up.

About the FDA approval of Pfizer/BioNTech's mRNA vaccine, Osterholm said he thought the media was underplaying the safety of the mRNA vaccines. "The only adverse event of any significance has been associated with those have been myocarditis and pericarditis," he said. "And in those instances, in some cases, people were hospitalized, but they basically all fully recovered. Most of them were actually very mild conditions.

He added: "No one has died from the 180 million people who've been vaccinated with mRNA vaccines in this country. That's an important number. In fact, I wish aspirin could be as safe. And so I think we have to emphasize the fact that these aren't just safe vaccines. They're incredibly safe."

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Schools Are Not Safe

Teacher and children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.

Pointing out that he is a grandfather of five who wants his grandchildren to have in-person instruction, Osterholm said the CDC's guidelines about safe school reopening are misleading. "This virus is moving quickly and effectively between kids, by kids, and for kids," he said. In the last week, the 15 largest school districts in Florida reported 11,851 cases of COVID in students and 2,610 cases in employees. "The science is telling us with Delta, it is absolutely impossible to open up schools and not have major transmission," he said. 

"Our pediatric intensive care beds in this country are filled," he added. "So if your child gets severely ill, don't count on getting a pediatric intensive care bed or even getting a pediatric intensive care doctor and nurses to take care of them. We have got to dramatically decrease transmission in our kids."

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You Need This Kind of Mask


"You can actually accomplish substantial reduction of the virus risk with a good quality mask," said Osterholm. "We know that face cloth coverings, as such, provide very limited protection." 

He recommends an N95 or KN95 mask, or a barrier face covering that has been approved by ASTM, a group that measures the effectiveness of respiratory protection devices.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael