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Virus Expert Just Issued This "Critical" Warning

“What we're seeing right now with this virus is simply remarkable.”
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The coronavirus isn't going away, and there's a group of people who are sitting ducks for catching it, now more than at any other point before: children. Rates of cases among children, and hospitalizations among them, have skyrocketed with the new Delta variant, which some fear makes them "sicker, quicker." How can you save one of their lives? Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, spoke with Chad Hartman on the Chad Hartman Show about just that. Read on for 10 essential points—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Virus Expert Says the Issue With Kids is "Critical"

Nurse with thermometer measures fever on patient child in hospital bed, wearing protective visor and surgical mask.

"Children hospitalized has hit an all time high," said Hartman. "What is your greatest concern about kids and COVID at this time?"

"This issue with kids is a very critical one," answered Osterholm. "And the reason I say that is that the assumptions that we made about how kids got infected with the virus and how severely ill they were is outdated now today with this new Delta variant, in that it is very transmissible and kids, unlike a year ago, when we said we could probably reopen schools safely—I've always felt uncomfortable saying 'safely' because that implied complete safety—but the point is we wanted our kids back in school, but what we're seeing right now with this virus is simply remarkable. In the last year 341 children have died from COVID infections. 66 of those or 20% have died in the last three weeks."


Virus Expert Said Cases and the Severity of Them is Increasing

Little girl is sick using oxygen mask on her face laying in bed at hospital.

"What we're seeing is a major increase around the country in the number of cases as well as the severity," said Osterholm. "There is a survey that just was completed showing that right now in the United States, there's over a thousand schools in 35 states that are closed because of COVID—closed, not just trying to deal with it. And what people really haven't understood is that this is highly infectious in these kids. And kids do really get very sick. And it's not like in the average flu season. Last year I would've said this was like a bad flu season in kids. This is very different."


Virus Expert Said We've "Put Blinders On" When it Comes to How Bad Things are for Kids

School child wearing face mask

"One of the challenges I think we have is we were so determined to get our kids back into school for in-person learning because of what—obviously negative downsides of not having them there, we put blinders on, and said therefore the virus isn't a problem," said Osterholm. "'We're going to do this. We're going to make it happen.' I have talked about the fact that we've got many schools right now where kids are three feet apart from each other. I have talked about the fact that you understand what an aerosol is, the way we transmit this virus, understand you,can you smell smoke from somebody through your mask? Well, I guarantee you, if you're three apart from someone smoking next to you, you're going to smell it. But what does that tell you about transmission? And so I am one that says that, we need to do a lot more in our schools to actually make them safer. And then when transmission starts to occur in those schools, you got to shut it down. You just do, or you're going to see this increasing number of severe illnesses and deaths in these kids."


Virus Expert Said This is "The Most Important Thing You Can Do" For Kids

Nurse administering vaccination to students arms in a high school.

"Well, first of all, the most important thing we can do is vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate and all school teachers, staff support, and parents for that matter, an older siblings should be vaccinated—right now only 32% of those kids, 12 to 17, who could be fully vaccinated are vaccinated, only 32%," said Osterholm. "And so right there, you're inviting the challenges in junior high and high schools, as well as they bring it home to other siblings." 


Virus Expert Said Classrooms Needed to be Ventilated

Air purifier in modern office for fresh air and removal dust

"The next thing is ventilation," said Osterholm. "People don't understand that the single most important thing you can do in a school to reduce the risk of transmission of these viruses is make sure you have five to six air exchanges in every room every hour. And then if you can add into the HEPA filters, these filter machines that we talked about," or you can make your own. "Then after that, it's about crowding. If you're going to put kids in three feet apart, you can do the 

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Virus Expert Said Students Needed More Distancing

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

Osterholm says three feet between kids is not enough. He asked you to do "a mental imaging of how close they are and how much each of them breathing means that they contribute that air to the room. If they're six feet apart, it's not like it's going to stop the aerosols from moving out far more, but at least you reduce the density. And so the air circulation has a better chance of taking the virus out." 

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Virus Expert Said More Testing Needed to be Done

African American little boy with his mother during PCR test of coronavirus in a medical lab

"Next one is you need to deal with the issue of testing," said Osterholm. "The idea that you can test once a week and feel confident that you're going to pick up an emerging outbreak in your school….And it could very well be you to do it four or five times a week, if not more. And again, you say, well, I can't do that. Well, are you going to protect your kids? They're not going to protect the faculty and staff? And then I think that you do, you keep moving from there. 

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Virus Expert Said Use These Masks

Child girl wearing a protection mask against coronavirus

"And finally you get to masking—quality masking," said Osterholm. "You need KN95. So I am very pro masking. What I'm against is inadequate masking. Now, if you put all that together, then I think you can do it as well as you can, but even then the chances of having an outbreak are still real."

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Virus Expert Said This About New Variants

Scientists and microbiologists with PPE suit and face mask hold test tube and microscope in lab

There's a new variant called "Mu, which is one that we have some concerns about because of the fact that it has one mutation that may mean that it could escape the immune protection of  the vaccine. At this point, this virus is clearly not competing well…..Delta is winning. So I think for now, we need to be constantly vigilant of this. We need to be constantly sequencing these viruses around the world, but I think Delta remains the king and, you know, the idea of real estate—location, location location—in this one to call it, it's Delta, Delta, Delta.

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Female patient smiling behind the face mask and with her eyes, while getting flu shot

Follow Osterholm's 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.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek