Dr. Michael Osterholm has presented an ominous timeline that the United States is about to enter its darkest weeks of the coronavirus pandemic yet. If people are wondering whether the coronavirus will get worse, Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, has a troubling answer.
The leading epidemiologist made the remarks during an appearance on Meet the Press on Oct. 18 when asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd if he shared the “optimism” of Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. Earlier that day, Azar had also appeared on the program, and he implied that America was “so close” to developing an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
“I don’t, only in the sense that, again, we’re not really telling the complete story,” said Osterholm. “We do have vaccines and therapeutics coming down the pike, but when you actually look at the time period for that, the next six to twelve weeks are going to be the darkest of the pandemic.”
“Vaccines will not become available in any meaningful way until early to the third quarter of next year,” Osterholm explained, adding that even then, half of the U.S. population is skeptical of even taking a vaccine at this point.
Osterholm said the biggest problem the U.S. currently facing is a lack of cohesive messaging on a federal level.
“People don’t know what to believe, and that’s one of our huge challenges going forward is we’ve got to get a message to the public that reflects the science and reflects reality,” he said.
With cases currently skyrocketing to record numbers, it’s not difficult to see why the U.S. is heading into a nightmare scenario. Will coronavirus get worse? It already seems to be happening, and factors such as upcoming holidays, colder weather forcing people indoors, and the approaching flu season have the potential to seriously exacerbate an already worrying trend.
“When I was on this show last, on Sept. 13, we had 33,000 cases reported that day. You may recall, I warned that we were going to see a very dark fall,” he said. “[On Oct. 16], we had 70,000 cases, matching the largest number we had seen during the really serious peak in July.
“That number, we’re going to blow right through that. And between now and the holidays, we will see numbers much, much larger than even the 67,000-75,000 cases,” he warned.
Osterholm once again pointed to a lack of direction from the federal government in educating Americans—particularly in this pivotal moment.
“No one has a good story about what to do there, and what I mean by a story, this is more than just science,” said Osterholm. “This is bringing people together to understand, why are we doing this. This is an FDR fireside chat approach, and we’re just not doing that.”