The US not only has the most Coronavirus infection cases in the world but also has taken the top spot for the maximum COVID-19 related deaths. But a well known American infectious disease expert has expressed his concern on the COVID-19 situation in the country and also sounded an alarm over the upcoming tough times.

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in a recent interview that while the US lacks a leading voice to guide the public, "the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire Coronavirus pandemic."

During an interview on Sunday, October 18, Osterholm said that vaccines for COVID-19 "will not become available" in any meaningful way until early to the third quarter of 2021. Even after a vaccine gets available, about half of the US population at this point is "skeptical of even taking the vaccine."

Michael Osterholm
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Facebook/ University of Minnesota Giving

US Coronavirus Crisis

The US is preparing for the November Presidential election. President Donald Trump, who tested positive for the COVID-19 a few weeks ago, is going out in public for political rallies, denying the virtual presidential debate option, and showing more enthusiasm to denounce Democrats and former vice president Joe Biden than focusing on the Coronavirus health crisis in the US. But cases are still growing and people are still dying all over the country.

Osterholm told NBC's "Meet the Press" about the daily tally of 70,000 new COVID-19 cases in the country on Friday—the highest count since July. According to the expert from now till the holidays, the Coronavirus cases in the country will likely "blow right through that." He said that there are several voices guiding the Americans than just one, and it is "part of the problem".

While referring to the former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech on the radio during the Great Depression (1929-30) that boosted the confidence in public, Osterholm said, "This [Coronavirus pandemic] is more than just science. This is bringing people together to understand why we are doing this. This is FDR fireside chat approach, and we're just not doing that."

The Goal

coronavirus face mask
Coronavirus in the US Pixabay

As per the expert, the aim is to achieve herd immunity—which according to other experts is risky and also a terrible idea. But it doesn't mean that people will be allowed to contract the virus. Instead, the goal can be achieved by inoculating them through a vaccination program.

Osterholm said that there should be someone who can start to articulate, "What is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family, you won't go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and end up infecting mom or dad or grandpa and grandma." But right now, the US doesn't have that storytelling going on and that is every bit as important as the science itself.

However, he dismissed the idea that herd immunity can be a solution to the pandemic or it can be achieved with just 20 percent of the population being infected—this percentage was proposed by Trump Coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas.

As per Osterholm, the percentage should be between 70 to 50 to make the plan work, and said that "20percent number is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I've ever seen." Even leading US infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci has also dismissed the idea that herd immunity can be gained with such a low percentage.

While clarifying his point, Osterholm said that attempts to reach the goal by infection and not by vaccination will cause negative outcomes including "lots of deaths and a lot of serious illnesses". Even if 70 or 50 percent of people get infected, the SARS-CoV-2 transmission is hardly slowed down, but it won't stop the spread completely.

"So this virus is going to keep looking for wood to burn for as long as it can" and in that case the goal should be to protect as many people as possible with vaccination.