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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

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court grants stay for indoor mask mandate — Neil Young demands Spotify take down music over vaccine misinformation — Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Half of Latino renters depend on eviction relief

Members of the Los Angeles Tenants Union protest against evictions and give out food for the homeless in February. Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Around 56% of Hispanic renters said in March, before an U.S. eviction moratorium was extended, that they were otherwise likely to be forced to leave their homes in the next two months, per Census data.

Why it matters: Evictions contribute to a greater spread of COVID-19 as people experiencing homelessness end up in crowded infection-prone situations, according to studies, and coronavirus is already more easily spread among Latino families due to cramped living conditions and multigenerational homes.

Fed: Rate hikes "will soon be appropriate"

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Federal Reserve officials expect "it will soon be appropriate" to raise the central bank's main target interest rate, setting the stage for a rate hike at its next meeting in mid-March.

Driving the news: In a statement following a two-day meeting published Wednesday afternoon, however, the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee teed up its next move without taking new action.