Biden coronavirus advisor says U.S. has not even come close to the peak but is about to enter “Covid hell.”
As cases continue to rise above 100,000 per day, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the U.S. is about to suffer from its darkest period so far.
“What America has to understand is that we are about to enter Covid hell,” Biden coronavirus advisor told CNBC’s “Squawk Alley.” “It is happening.”
The U.S. is posting a record-high weekly average of about 108,736 cases every day, increasing more than 33% compared with a week ago, based on a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. is about to reach 10 million reported coronavirus infections as of Monday, the most of any country, according to Hopkins data. The coronavirus pandemic has led to the deaths of at least 237,584 people in the country so far.
That number has increased dramatically in recent weeks, nudging the U.S. pandemic close to its third peak before Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Before Labor Day, Osterholm said he warned that the U.S. would experience an “astronomical” rise in new infections. That projection has happened in only a matter of weeks, he said, noting that “this number is going to continue to increase substantially.”
“We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun,” Osterholm stressed. “The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic.”
While Pfizer’s early coronavirus vaccine data projecting more than 90% effectiveness is “a great, great finding,” Osterholm explained that more data is needed to determine how effective the vaccine is in managing serious illness and death compared with more mild symptoms.
“Until we have those pieces of information, we can’t really know how much of a game-changer this really is,” he said.
Biden’s transition team introduced its members on Monday, including Osterholm, who will coordinate with state and local leaders to help manage the federal response to the virus once the president-elect takes office on Jan. 20.
The task force will be co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of Yale University, based on the announcement.
Osterholm’s worry about the winter months is similar to that of Biden, who said on Monday that the U.S. is “still facing a very dark winter” while encouraging Americans to wear a face mask.
“It’s clear that this vaccine, even if approved, will not be widely available for many months yet to come,” Biden said. “The challenge before us right now is still immense and growing.”
Who is Dr. Michael Osterholm?
Based on the website of the University of Minnesota, Osterholm Dr. Osterholm is “Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota.”
He worked as a Science Envoy for Health Security on behalf of the U.S. Department of State from June 2018 through May 2019. His New York Times best-selling 2017 book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, discusses the most critical disease threats today and presents a nine-point strategy on how to respond to them, with preventing a global flu pandemic.