COVID cases are up 20%, hospitalizations are up 14%, and Omicron now represents 73% of cases, up from 1% just a few weeks ago. How can you stay safe? Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, appeared on MSNBC opposite John Heilemann to discuss how bad things might get. Read on for 5 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Virus Expert Warns No Place in America Will be Spared
“I don’t think any places in America are gonna be spared,” said Osterholm, “but let’s really break this apart into two buckets. One is transmission. This virus is simply remarkable. It’s highly infectious. If you are not vaccinated, or even if you are vaccinated, but you don’t have the three doses on board, this virus will find you and you have a potential for serious illness. The second bucket, however, is the seriousness of the illness. And we’ve seen now in South Africa and some early data in England, it is less severe. Meaning that, for example, in South Africa, only about 50% of the hospitalization level among those 65 and older compared to what we saw the Delta. But the difference is with such great increases in transmissibility for all the offset we may have, and not as many people seriously ill, the number of people who are gonna get infected is gonna be astronomical.” So we could have “the same number of people or more who are currently in our hospital with Delta now in the hospital with Omicron. So I think that that’s the challenge we have, and we’ve gotta get healthcare systems in this country to understand that. We are gonna go into a crisis in standards of care. Let’s just accept that. Now what we don’t understand is how bad that’s gonna be.”
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Done With COVID? Too Bad. COVID “Will Find You”
“The country’s over with us with this pandemic,” said Osterholm. “The problem is the virus isn’t over with us. It will find you, you can’t on the game clock out on this one. And even those who are partially vaccinated, with what one time would’ve been at least some protection against the virus will likely yield very little protection against this one, unless you have your full three doses. And so I think we just have to continue to keep hitting that home. And again, if you don’t get vaccinated, this virus we’ll find you.”
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We’re Going to “Get Hit Hard”
President Biden yesterday announced 500 million free at-home COVID tests for Americans, military help for hospitals and more vaccination sites. Is that enough? “Again, we have to break into the two buckets for the three to eight week period. We don’t have a lot of answers here and we’re gonna see a lot of places hit by this viral blizzard I just talked about. It might be thought of as a category five hurricane. In many, many parts of the country, we’re not ready for that. What we’re talking about is how do we deal with it? You know, next month, five months from now, 10 months from now. We gotta get through the next three to eight weeks when we’re gonna get hit hard.”
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Virus Expert Said One “Terrible Problem” Will be Doctors and Nurses Catching COVID and Also Being Overwhelmed
“We really need to address two different kinds of needs in this country right now,” said Osterholm. “One is the period of three weeks, eight weeks from now, we are going to be in the middle of a viral blizzard across the whole country. As you know, with Delta, it has really been located primarily in the Upper Midwest, the Northeast, and some places in the country are saying, what’s the big deal about COVID right now? Well, is gonna hit all 50 states. Testing is gonna be terribly inadequate, but I think the most important aspect of what’s gonna be critical is the number of healthcare workers. Why we heard today that there’ll be a thousand military medical personnel dispatched. There’ll be additional FEMA people dispatched. You know, there are 22 million healthcare workers in this country, 9.3 million doctors, nurses and technologists of which I anticipate 10 to 30% are gonna get infected in the next three weeks and six to eight weeks. And if we already think we have a terrible problem in our healthcare systems now where Delta has been hitting, this is going to be really become a problem…to me the biggest challenge, it’s not the respirators, it’s not the ventilators. It’s gonna be the personnel.”
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How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted 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.