U.S. Entering 'Darkest Weeks' of Pandemic, COVID-19 Expert Says

Carolyn Crist

January 27, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The U.S. is about to enter the "darkest weeks" of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, one of President Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board members said Tuesday.

Cases will likely surge again as contagious coronavirus variants spread across the country, Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told CNN.

"I worry the next 6-14 weeks could be the darkest weeks of the pandemic," he said.

In baseball terms, he added, the U.S. is still in the "bottom of the third or top of the fourth" inning. Although new cases have decreased to about 150,000 per day, that's still much higher than infectious disease experts would like to see, he said. If variants become more prominent in the U.S., as they have in Europe, the numbers could increase again and surpass the highs seen already.

In addition, an explosion in the number of new infections could hinder the role of vaccines in trying to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Even if a large number of Americans are vaccinated between now and April, the variant could "do a great deal of harm" before then, he said.

"We'll have to wait and see," he said. "I sure hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, it's going to be a long few weeks ahead of us."

The new coronavirus variants are an "enormous challenge," and the worst of the pandemic is still ahead, Osterholm also told MSNBC on Tuesday. He emphasized that the current dip in cases is likely a temporary reduction that will rise again.

"I'm not at all optimistic," he said.

In mid-October, Osterholm also warned that the following 6-12 weeks would be some of "darkest of the entire pandemic," he told NBC's Meet the Press. At the time, the U.S. reported 70,000 daily cases, and infectious diseases experts said the cases would surge even higher throughout the holidays.

Sources

Huffington Post, "Infectious Disease Expert Warns Next 6 To 14 Weeks May Be 'Darkest' Of COVID-19 Pandemic."

MSNBC, "Dr. Osterholm: 'The Very Worst of the Pandemic is Yet Before Us.'"

NBC News, "Full Osterholm: "Next six to twelve weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic.'"

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