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Expert: Darkest Weeks of Pandemic Are Yet to Come

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Oct. 19, 2020 -- A top infectious disease specialist said Sunday that the country is entering the darkest time of the entire pandemic.

"We do have vaccines and therapeutics coming down the pike," Michael Osterholm, PhD, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said on NBC’s Meet the Press. "But when you actually look at the time period for that, the next 6 to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic."

Other health experts have also predicted the fall and winter would be a treacherous time for the United States, because cold weather forces people inside, where the virus is more easily spread, and the flu season is beginning. We’re months away from a vaccine that’s widely available. The Unites States surpassed the 8 million mark in total coronavirus cases last week.

"Friday, we had 70,000 cases, matching the largest number we had seen back during the really serious peak in July," Osterholm said. "That number, we're going to blow right through that. And between now and the holidays, we will see numbers much, much larger than even the 67,000 to 75,000 cases."

Osterholm said the United States has “a major problem in messaging” about the pandemic response, as evidenced by polls showing high skepticism about a coronavirus vaccine.

"People don't know what to believe, and that's one of our huge challenges going forward, is we've got to get the message to the public that reflects the science and reflects reality,” he said.

The nation needs a “lead” voice to unify national response, he said. "This is bringing people together to understand, why are we doing this? This is an FDR [President Franklin Roosevelt] fireside-chat approach. And we're just not doing that."

Though President Donald Trump created a coronavirus task force, he has given much of the responsibility for pandemic response to governors. The states have a wide range of strategies. Not all states, for example, have imposed statewide face mask mandates.

CNN, citing data from Johns Hopkins University, says coronavirus cases are surging across the nation, with the 7-day average of new cases climbing above 56,000. The United States has not reported daily case counts at that level since late July, CNN says.

Only two states -- Hawaii and Vermont -- are showing a downward trend in new cases of at least 10%, CNN says. Twenty-seven states are trending upward in new cases, and 21 states are holding steady.

The coronavirus is also spreading fast outside the United States. On Monday, the 40 millionth case was reported worldwide, Johns Hopkins says. The United States has the most recorded coronavirus cases, followed by India with 7.5 million and Brazil with 5.2 million. Global deaths have topped 1.1 million.

European nations are imposing new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. Wales is entering a 2-week lockdown period, and Switzerland and Austria are limiting the size of gatherings, CNN says.

“We are at a point in Austria where the growth is simply too fast, where the numbers are too high, and where we know if this trend continues, then it won’t be one which we can endure for months,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday.

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NBC News: "Full Osterholm: 'Next six to twelve weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic.' "

CNN: "10 states reported their highest single-day coronavirus case counts last week."

CNN: "Only 2 US states show a downward trend in Covid-19 cases. Here's a look at the latest figures."


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