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Coronavirus cases are going down in some parts of the country but there is far too much "human wood" for COVID-19 to burn, warns Michael Osterholm, the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I think we forget about the fact of just what damage this virus has done with over the 700,000 deaths that have occurred, 1 out of every 500 Americans has died from this virus. That's amazing when we look at the fact that there are now over 140,000 kids in this country who have been orphaned, or whose sole caregiver has died, because of COVID-19. I think, you know, you start to get a sense of the impact. And so we've got a ways to go yet, but we never should ever, ever, ever count this virus out," he told MPR News. Read on for 6 life-saving pieces of advice he shared with the network—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Virus Says a Fifth Wave is "Absolutely" Possible
Is a fifth wave possible, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned? "Absolutely. There's no daylight between Fauci and I on that issue. Just remember that 65 million Americans who could be vaccinated right now are not. That is more than enough human wood for this coronavirus forest fire to burn," said Osterholm. "So we'll see when the case numbers come down with this surge, just as we have with the previous surges." Read on to see the harrowing truth about what might happen after that.
Virus Expert Warned Cases Will Likely Go Back Up Again
"And you may recall last spring that I thought the darkest days of the pandemic were ahead of us. And we were facing that June period when everybody said, 'Oh, it's done.' We've got vaccines, hardly any cases — and then look what happened? Well, that's going to happen again because you have places like New York City, LA and other large metropolitan areas with lots of people," said Osterholm. "We've also seen in many other countries in the United Kingdom as a good example. They today are approaching their high number of cases that they actually had back in June in July, when delta was such a serious problem, and they're back up again. I can't say this enough times: If you are not vaccinated, this virus will find you. And you will know a COVID-19-related outcome. We can see again major activity. [It could be this] winter, next spring, I don't know when but it's not done. It is not done. The one thing that will help us get it done is to get vaccinated."
Virus Expert Warns This is a "Pandemic of the Unvaccinated"
"This is clearly a pandemic of the unvaccinated in incidence of the most serious illnesses and the large number of deaths," said Osterholm. "And what we have to understand is that if you are not vaccinated, you can't run out the clock on this virus. It will find you and you will know a COVID-19-related outcome. Hopefully it's a mild illness, but it very well could be serious illness or even death."
Virus Expert Said the Path of the Virus is Unpredictable
"We have to acknowledge that we're not really sure, when we have had this surge with this new delta variant, why we saw it unfold as it did in June in the Ozark region of the country, then spreading basically more to the Southern Sunbelt states and at the same time, starting in the northwest, and then we saw it move into the southeastern states. Then we saw it in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia. And then it kind of skipped over a certain part of the Northeast and really hit Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. And then about the same time, it took off in the Upper Midwest as the Western part of the country continued to expand its problem. And suddenly North Dakota, Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, northern Michigan were particularly hard hit," said Osterholm. "And why this kind of 'voyage of the virus' happened? We don't know. But we're now experiencing to a certain degree what the other states did two and three months ago."
Virus Expert Warns a New Variant is Possible
"I learned a long time ago. It's kind of like when you go to Vegas, you never want to bet against the house because you're probably going to lose. There's a system in place there," said Osterholm. "With Mother Nature, it is the same thing. I've never bet it against genetic roulette tables. You know, when a virus is up there mutating every time and knowing that the vast majority of the world is not yet vaccinated, and there's lots of infections out there, it's surely possible that a new virus variant is going to come forward that could really throw a monkey wrench into things."
How to Stay Safe Out There
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.