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Virus Expert Issues Stark COVID Warning Everyone Should Hear

The worst weeks of the pandemic could be ahead. Here's why.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Despite the welcome acceleration of COVID-19 vaccinations, Americans might be facing the worst weeks of the pandemic soon, warns epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. After several weeks of steep drops, then a plateau, the number of new daily cases has begun to tick upward in recent days, at the same time that new variants of the virus are spreading rapidly. Here's why Osterholm is so concerned, and how you can keep yourself safe. Read on, and to ensure your health, remember: Doctors Say "DO NOT" Do This After Your COVID Vaccine.


Not Enough People Are Vaccinated, Osterholm Warns

Woman in medical face mask getting Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital

"We are getting more people vaccinated, which is a very, very good thing," said Osterholm at Axios' virtual event "COVID-19 Testing in a Post-Vaccine World" on Wednesday. "However, when you look at the actual numbers of the total people vaccinated, we have, for example, now still 18 million individuals 65 years of age and older who are not vaccinated. We see in younger-age populations, again, limited numbers of people vaccinated." In Europe, which is now experiencing a major surge of cases, children have played a role in spreading COVID-19 to older adults, he said. 


The Country Has Reopened Too Soon, Osterholm Warns

People cheering with beer in bar.

"Our only hope right now is that we as a country take this seriously and do whatever we can to limit transmission," said Osterholm. "And yet at the same time, I sit here and tell you we've never been more open as a country since the very first days of the pandemic." 


Vaccinations Won't Slow Transmission For Months, Osterholm Warns

Doctor holding syringe in hospital.

"There is reason to be optimistic about the vaccines coming," said Osterholm. "The problem is we're not going to have that much vaccine to materially impact in a major way transmission in this country 'til well into spring and early summer. So what we've got to do is get through the next six to 12 weeks." He added: "We don't seem to care in the sense that we're opening up everything, at local, state, and even federal levels." 


We're Not Doing Enough COVID Testing, Osterholm Warns

Staff testing a driver for coronavirus

"We somehow seem to have forgotten about testing a bit, with the advent of the vaccines," said Osterholm. "You hear less about it when in fact it's every bit as important now as it's ever been." He added: "In many locations, people who are doing testing are now doing vaccinating, which is important, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't have testing. The second thing is the public has, in a sense, moved on beyond testing." With Americans less focused on getting COVID tests, the virus has more opportunity to spread asymptomatically.


The Virus Is Not Going Away, Osterholm Warns

Scientist studies the curves of the Covic-19 pandemic and the dna of an infected person, holding a sample vial in a hospital

"Remember we have billions of people in low-income countries, some in middle-income countries, who will never have access to vaccines," said Osterholm. "We'll also see variants spin out. And so we're going to constantly be in a battle with this virus, relative to the variant issue." So follow the public health guidelines, get vaccinated when it's your turn, 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
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