Coronavirus cases are rising so high, right before back to school time, it feels like August 2020. “This is a very, very tough time. It is confusing. If you’re confused, if you’re concerned in a way that you haven’t been before, if you’re feeling let down, if you’re feeling somewhat frightened, please know that you’re not alone, that this clearly is something that we’re all feeling,” says leading epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on the latest episode of his podcast. Read on for his 6 life-saving pieces of advice he shared with his listeners—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
“The world passed a very grim milestone last week with the total confirmed cases, now reaching 200 million. That is clearly a major under-report of cases, but from the standpoint of kind of the relative tip of the iceberg, it gives you a sense that the numbers are not going down. They’re going up. The global death toll is not more than 4.3 million weekly for this past week, around 4.3 million cases reported as up from 4.1 million the week prior, this is the seventh straight week of increasing cases. Global deaths are also up from last week with 65,500 reported.” He said last week, cases were going up and down in certain areas but now “most concerning is the trend that they keep overall going up. Meaning this pandemic is a long, long ways from being over globally.”
“I’m struggling right now as a grandparent,” says Osterholm. “I’m struggling because I’m fully vaccinated and I have five grandchildren under the age of 12. I’ve chronicled my time with them through the course of this pandemic, they have been a lifeblood to me, feeling more comfortable being in close contact with them has been a joy that I can never adequately describe. And now feeling like wow, Delta is taking over, we’re seeing widespread transmission in kids. These kids are in camps. These kids are playing with friends. Will they get infected and bring it home to one of us who are vaccinated, but could have a breakthrough case, or…I know how to protect myself,” but could I “potentially going to get exposed, get infected and more importantly, transmit it to them.” Despite the perception that kids’ infections are not as common as those in adults, “they still do have severe disease and die,” said Osterholm. “And so I think to myself, well, am I exposing them now that we know more about these breakthrough cases and the potential for transmission?”
“Please, we have to remember these cases are people,” said Osterholm. “Every time I see the news media put a number up, or I see another chart from some organization, or even me talking as a talking head about numbers—these are people, these are our fathers and our mothers, our grandparents, our brothers, and our sisters, our colleagues in some cases are people that we don’t necessarily agree with, but we have watched really over the course of the past two to four weeks, just increasing devastation caused by this virus….At the very, very heart of it is our real people.”
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“The Delta variant has created a whole new challenge for the world,” said Osterholm. “This is a brand new game and we have to understand that it’s not a mystery in the sense we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not somehow lightning struck and look at it as a whole different world. It’s evolution, viral evolution, it’s classic epidemiology…..Our vaccines are going to continue to be tool number 1, 2, 3, and four. As we look at other countries out there that have used other tools, such as China’s doing mass testing, they’re tracing their travel restrictions, vaccination, masking, et cetera, and they’re still having challenges. So I only want to point that out because we should not misinterpret that our problems here in the United States are just solely because we aren’t trying something. Our vaccination efforts are clearly among the best in the world, but you can see how tough this is to deal with even, even with vaccine….So from a global standpoint, the lessons learned this is far from over. This is far, far from over.”
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Osterholm said Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma are seeing major surges. “So where do we go from here?” he asks. Unclear, he says. “The hottest activity remain mainly in Southern Sunbelt states will upward trends in the Midwest in the far west in the Southeast, continue to mature. What’s the ceiling, what impact will state fairs, concerts, and festivals play. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. What should we expect from schools reopened? We’ll learn the answers to all these questions with time—time. That’s what it’s going to be. Most importantly, all I can keep saying is get vaccinated and make sure your friends and family members are also vaccinated. Even if they get vaccinated now, they won’t get immediate protection, but there’ll be covered from future surges.”
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“Remember, as we sit here today, over 90 million Americans have not yet been vaccinated or previously infected and are vulnerable to this virus and it will find them,” warned Osterholm. “It will find them. If it’s not this surge, it’ll be the next surge. And there will be more surges. I hope each time they get smaller numbers. I hope that the number of people impacted is reduced in part large part because of vaccine, not because they had to previously have an infection to get there, but we’re going to see more. This is not done. We can’t celebrate independence from this virus right now for the foreseeable future, unless we fundamentally change the number of people who get vaccinated, both in the United States and around the world.” So 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.