While COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed out to millions of people around the country, one top virus expert has warned that the US is about to enter a "new pandemic".
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said on Sunday that in many ways, he believes that "we're almost in a new pandemic", as a result of the new strains of COVID-19 spreading. Dr. Osterholm explains that the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the United Kingdom is of much concern to public health experts for the following reasons.
"This is a virus that is now 50 to 100 percent more transmissible or infectious than the previous viruses. This is a virus that causes 50 to 60 percent more severe illnesses, and so what at one time wasn't as much of a problem-for example, in cases in young adult-are now becoming very serious cases. This is really a fourth wave, you might call it, with somewhat of a different picture than we've seen in the past waves of the pandemic."
On a more positive note, Dr. Osterholm says that the only "good news about this" is that current COVID-19 vaccines are still effective against the new strain. Essentially, there is now a race between rolling out as many COVID-19 vaccines as possible before the new variants begin to spread more rapidly. Additionally, Dr. Osterholm suggests that we may need to pull back on some of the public health restrictions that we have loosened up on.
Dr. Osterholm also said, "I understand the absolute resistance in this country to even to consider that. It was kind of like trying to drink barbed wire. But the bottom-line message is the virus is going to do what it's going to do, and we're going to have to respond somehow-whether we accept that if we have large outbreaks in our communities, we're willing to pull back on some of the restrictions that we've loosened up on. Are we going to reconsider schools and school transmission as a new factor here that we didn't have before?"
"Nobody was wrong in trying to get schools reopened. Now we have new data that says this virus is a game-changer. So I think we are all going to be looking carefully at what to do."
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