June 16, 2020 -- An infectious disease expert said this weekend that many more people will be infected with the coronavirus before the pandemic is over.
"About 5% of the US population has been infected to date with the virus. This virus is not going to rest until it gets to about 60% or 70%," said Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said. "When I say rest, I mean just slow down, so one way or another we're going to see a lot of additional cases."
Osterholm, an infectious disease epidemiologist, told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” he fears the coronavirus will hit a “trough,” in which cases will decline, and then “come back with a vengeance.”
“We are not planning for the fact that we are going to see a substantial part of our country become infected over the next 12 to 18 months if we don’t have a vaccine,” he said. “We will never be blue or red again. We will be COVID colored.”
Meanwhile, Osterholm said it’s too soon to know if mass protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd have contributed to the spread of the coronavirus,
“These were outdoor protests,” he said. “We know that outdoor air more rapidly dissipates the virus. The chances of being exposed are much less.
“On the other hand yelling, screaming, being exposed to tear gas or smoke which causes coughing, being put into a holding cell overnight in a jail if you were arrested, all are reasons why you would expect to see more cases.”
He said there’s no evidence so far that the protests contributed to an increase except for isolated cases with national guard troops in Washington, DC, and Nebraska.
“This next week or two weeks are going to be the telling time,” he said, not just for protest-related spread but for other indicators about how the virus will proceed.
Twenty-two states have reported increases in coronavirus cases, 21 have reported decreases, and eight have reported a plateau in cases. Osterholm said it’s too early to know if increased testing or protests contributed to the rise in cases, he said.
“This is where we have to be very humble and say this is a very serious challenge but we don’t really know what is actually making the virus move in some states and not in others,” Osterholm said.