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Virus Expert Just Issued This "Very Bad" Warning

This fourth wave will last more than a month, and our kids aren’t all safe, says Michael Osterholm.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The COVID-19 cases are spreading, with some experts predicting we'll soon be back up to more than 200,000 cases a day—a rate we never thought we'd see again since so many people are vaccinated. The problem? So many aren't. So how can you keep yourself and any innocent children safe? Michael Osterholm, the director for the Center for Infectious Disease, research and policy at the University of Minnesota, appeared on Meet the Press to deliver some warnings about this "very, very bad" Delta variant. Read on for six life-saving pieces of advice—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.


Virus Expert Warned This Surge Could Last "Four to Six Weeks" and These States Are In Trouble

Doctor examining female patient in critical health conditions using a stethoscope in the intensive care unit of a modern hospital during covid-19 pandemic

Osterholm said what's happening is "actually a series of different events going on. First of all, you have the Sunbelt states, which we all know are having really dramatic case increases. If you look at the state of Louisiana right now, they're tied with the country of Georgia for the highest rate of infections in the world. But what we're seeing happen right now is while those states are starting to potentially level off of bit, we're now seeing in the Southeast—Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Southern Illinois—all started to take off. We're seeing in the Northwest in states like Oregon and Washington, we're even seeing in the Midwest, increases. So this increase that we're seeing in the Southern Sunbelt states, which has been dramatic, we're at 83,000 hospitalizations today, a month ago, we were, at 25,000. So it gives you a sense of what's happened just in the last month." He predicted the surge can last "another four to six weeks."


Virus Expert Said Wear This Kind of Mask

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

Should you wear a mask? If so, which kind? "At this point, we need to put everything we can towards controlling" the outbreak and "one of the things of course is masks," but he says you really need "N95 masks or the K95 for kids. Masking is a very important right now. Remember, while vaccination is still the number one, two, and three weapons we have, if even everyone got vaccinated today, the surge would go on as it is right now for the next four to six weeks, because these people would not yet have immunity. So what they can do today though, is mask."


Here's How You Can Tell Your Mask Isn't Working

Woman coughing in her elbow in grocery store.

How can you tell if your mask is working? "Let's put it this way," said Osterholm. "If you were in a room with someone who is smoking, would you smell the smoke? That is an aerosol tand you know how they travel. You've walked down the street wherever, you suddenly get the whiff of smoke and you see somebody 20 feet in front of you. And so that's the test we have now. A cloth mask can give you some protection, but it's not the kind of protection that you have when you use a much more effective mask. We have not talked about that nearly enough."

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Virus Expert Says You May Be Wearing Your Mask Wrong

man wearing a surgical face mask on his chin breaking face mask policy

"We've been doing a study, looking at the public use of masks," said Osterholm. "We find routinely 20 to 25% of the population, when they came to wear the mask under their notes, that's nothing more than a diaper for your chin. And so I think that what we want to do is inform people yes, mask, but most importantly, give them the information about how they can get the more effective the effect of mask and how they can use them."

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Virus Expert Had This Warning About Kids

Mother and child wear facemask during coronavirus and flu outbreak.

Osterholm said we need to rethink how we're keeping our kids safe. "Delta is a different virus in the sense that it's much more infectious," he says. "Now, remember we still have 90 million Americans in this country that could be vaccinated that are not, and that alone serves as a source for infecting our kids. Under age 12 cannot be vaccinated yet. And so we do need to do more and I would also point out the other thing that helps you understand the infectious dose of this virus is the fact that we're now seeing more and more exists with outdoor air."

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Virus Expert Warned Cases Can Spread Outdoors and is "Very, Very Bad"

Senior woman with caring daughter at home

"Months ago, we were saying, if you're outdoors, you're pretty safe." He says Delta changes that. "When you've had a number of events happening, where in fact people get together and get infected—now that's happening outdoors. And what happens to our kids, whether they're closely together at schools.—it is very important that we recognize that as you'll see on the first week of school in the South, I've read a number of outbreaks of cases. We do have to, at this point, recognize this Delta is basically a very, very bad virus in terms of transmission." So follow the public health 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