July 17, 2020

Credit: Artur Debat / Getty Images

The U.S. loosened its lockdown measures far too early, even as cases of COVID-19 were on the rise, and now we are paying the price. That’s the verdict of Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, who back in May called the rush to reopen a “hodgepodge” because several states ignored important health and safety guidelines. As the pandemic rages onOsterholm discusses the steps that are needed to control the spread of the virus, advances in testing and treatment, and what the future may hold.

Three Takeaways:

  • In a report in April, Osterholm and his colleagues presented different potential scenarios for the course of the pandemic. Now Osterholm isn’t considering a major second wave, as one of the models predicted, because he thinks the virus will be one continuous onslaught. Infections will continue in either a “slow burn constant...coronavirus fire” or very quickly in “hot areas of transmission,” until a successful vaccine is developed, Osterholm says. The virus can be controlled to some extent through mitigation strategies, including more lockdowns in parts of the country and testing and contact tracing efforts, he suggests
  • Health care workers have gotten better at treating COVID-19 patients in intensive care. However, the strain on nurses and doctors has been huge, and Osterholm predicts their “heroic work” will not be sustainable, leading to a shortage of skilled medical personnel.
  • When it comes to the decisions that governors and superintendents need to make about reopening schools, Osterholm believes there is not one clear answer. Decisions should be made at the local level, with consideration of infection rates, and extra funds will be needed to make school buildings safe for students, teachers and administrators who do return, he says.

More Reading:

coronavirus, COVID-19, Michael Osterholm, pandemics

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