Health

Infectious diseases expert warns about new COVID-19 variants

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy on the University of Minnesota, says that he’s “not surprised” that the coronavirus pandemic continues to be raging one year later. He additionally believes that the nation is in a “whole new ballgame” when it comes to coping with the virus, given the new variants of COVID-19 which have cropped up in current months.

“We are, I think for the moment, in the eye of a hurricane with regard to the good news, the vaccine’s coming, but the big challenge [is] with this new variant that has arrived here from Europe,” Osterholm instructed CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in an interview, in reference to the variant B117. “But beyond that, it’s all going to be about the variants and the vaccine, and that will determine where we’re going to be next year, the year after, and the year after that.”

Osterholm famous that B117 is extra infectious than the unique pressure of COVID-19 and causes extra critical opposed well being reactions, including that research present that that there was a rise in critical sickness in youthful individuals in Europe. Osterholm spoke with Garrett for this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast.


Highlights from this week’s episode:

  • Michael Osterholm on the B117 variant of COVID-19: “We are I think for the moment in the eye of a hurricane with regard to the good news, the vaccine’s is coming, but the big challenge [is] with this new variant that has arrived here from Europe.”
  • Reopening colleges: “I know that people have made commitments, our elected officials have made commitments to get these schools opened up. I hope they take a pause and just at least look at these data that are showing that this may not be the time to open schools.”
  • Mitigating the unfold: “We are within weeks to months of getting most of this country vaccinated. Wouldn’t you want not to be the person who dies two weeks before they’re supposed to get their dose of vaccine? That I think is the message we have to get across.”
  • Politics of the virus: “You have to look at these viruses almost like gravity. You may not like it, you may not want to deal with it, but you are going to deal with it, because gravity can’t be easily dismissed.”

Osterholm mentioned that he beforehand would have supported no less than opening colleges within the U.S. for grades Ok-8, however information from Europe exhibits colleges ended up closing in November, December and January due to the unfold of the variant.

“I know that people have made commitments, our elected officials have made commitments to get these schools opened up. I hope they take a pause and just at least look at these data that are showing that this may not be the time to open schools,” Osterholm mentioned. “And it’s not anything they did wrong from before. If we hadn’t had B117, I’d be sitting here saying open up K-8 at least. Now I think we have to take a pause and really re-look at this very seriously.”

Osterholm additionally mentioned that there have been peaks and valleys within the variety of new coronavirus instances per day over the previous year, however there are “shifting baselines each time,” the place “the highs get higher and the lows get higher.”

“The vaccines are coming; that could surely drive that low down much more quickly. The problem is between the time now that we’re going to see an additional vaccine amount available to really start vaccinating a much larger segment of our population beyond the 12% we’ve vaccinated now — we’re going to see this B117 surge occur,” Osterholm predicted.

He urged individuals to proceed to take the virus significantly, and attempt to mitigate the unfold as a lot as potential within the closing weeks earlier than a lot of the nation is vaccinated.

“We are within weeks to months of getting most of this country vaccinated. Wouldn’t you want not to be the person who dies two weeks before they’re supposed to get their dose of vaccine? That, I think, is the message we have to get across,” he mentioned. “We’re not asking you to do this for another year, we’re not asking you to do this forever: we’re asking you as a part of our community save yourself until you can get your vaccine.”

Osterholm, who has served in some capability prior to now 5 presidential administrations, mentioned that he was not a partisan actor however noticed his obligation to “be a soldier in the public health army.”

“I’m agnostic on the politics; I’m absolute on the science,” he mentioned. And one factor he implicitly cautioned in opposition to is dropping COVID security precautions like masking and social distancing mandates too early.

“You have to look at these viruses almost like gravity. You may not like it, you may not want to deal with it, but you are going to deal with it, because gravity can’t be easily dismissed. These viruses are the same way,” Osterholm mentioned.

Osterholm indicated that there’s a mild on the finish of the tunnel, and “we could have some very, very bright days ahead of us.” But he fearful about what it could imply if important numbers of Americans resist vaccination

“If we see 30, 35% of people not willing to get the vaccine, we could still see ongoing transmission challenges well through the next year,” he mentioned.

For extra of Major’s dialog with Osterholm, obtain “The Takeout” podcast on Art19, iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes can be found each Friday morning. Also, you possibly can watch “The Takeout” on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of “The Takeout” episodes, go to www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you possibly can hearken to “The Takeout” on choose CBS News Radio associates (verify your native listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin, Julia Boccagno and Grace Segers
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