Apr 4, 2021 - Health

Infectious diseases expert: U.S. is "at the beginning" of a fourth COVID-19 surge

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, warned on Sunday that the U.S. is at the precipice of a fourth surge of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Data shows the U.S. may be at the start of a fourth wave that would foster the growth of new variants, which would likely be less susceptible to existing vaccines. A fourth surge would almost certainly be less deadly than the previous three, thanks to widespread vaccination of the elderly.

Driving the news: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky went off-script at a briefing last week and made an emotional plea to Americans not to let up on public health measures amid fears of a fourth wave.

  • “I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Walensky said, appearing to hold back tears.
  • "We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge."

What he's saying: "We're now, I think in that cycle where the upper Midwest is just now beginning to start this fourth surge. And I think it was a wake-up call to everyone yesterday when Michigan reported out 8,400 new cases," Osterholm said on Sunday.

  • "And we're now seeing an increasing number of severe illnesses, ICU and hospitalizations, in individuals who are between 30 and 50 years of age who have not been vaccinated."
  • "We're just at the beginning of this surge. We haven't even really begun to see it yet," he said.

But, but, but: "I think with the rate of vaccination that we're having right now ... I think that there's enough immunity in the population that you're not going to see a true fourth wave of infection," Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, said on Sunday's "Face the Nation."

Go deeper: The fourth wave is here


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