- Michael Osterholm, a leading disease expert, said Sunday that the United States is the “eye of the hurricane.”
- Daily new cases have fallen from their peak earlier this year, but there is still cause for concern.
- Several states have lowered restrictions, but experts warn that such actions are premature.
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Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, warned Sunday of the current state of the pandemic in the US despite the continuing decline in new cases.
“We are in the eye of the hurricane right now,” he said during an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “It seems that things are going very well, you can even see the blue sky. We have been through a terrible year.”
According to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases diagnosed each day has dropped to less than 70,000 new cases each day, down from a peak earlier this year in which new daily cases exceeded 200,000.
Vaccines have also accelerated as supply has increased following the emergency authorization of the Johnson & Johson single-shot vaccine in late February. Biden said March 6 that all adult Americans could get vaccinated in mid-May.
But Osterholm said there were reasons for concern about the spread of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, which was first discovered in the UK and has since “wreaked havoc” in Europe.
—Meet the press (@MeetThePress) March 7, 2021
About a month ago, 1% to 4% of COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the US were of the B.1.1.7 variant, Osterholm said. But today, about 30 to 40% of new cases were the variant. When B.1.1.7 cases have reached about 50% of cases in Europe, the virus begins to “increase,” he added, warning of a possible increase in the US.
“Many of these countries have been locked up for two months just to try to control this virus,” Osterholm said of the European countries affected by the variant.
The warnings come amid lax public health measures that health officials have warned are premature. States in the US have once again begun to reduce measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Several states, including Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota, have rescinded the mask mandates.
Experts have also warned that spring break vacationers could spread the highly contagious variant in the coming weeks, even if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to discourage travel.