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Osterholm: "We're going to be living in a COVID world for awhile"

Posted: Thu, Oct 15, 2020 7:37 PM

Noted epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm told a Zoom audience of Luther College students Thursday night that the next few months will be critical for the U.S. response to coronavirus.

Osterholm gave the Farwell Distinguished Lecture virtually on Thursday--just another sign of how COVID-19 has impacted every part of our lives.  He told the Luther audience that epidemiologists first thought COVID-19 could be controlled just like the SARS and MIRS outbreaks were controlled.  By early January, they knew that would not be the case.  On January 20th, Osterholm and other epidemiologists issued a statement predicting "this will be a worldwide pandemic."

By mid-April, there were 32,000 COVID-19 cases per day in the United States and it had become the leading cause of death in the country.  Steps taken in the country reduced that level to 22,000 cases a day by Memorial Day, but Osterholm says fatique set in.  By mid-July, the rate was around 67,000 cases a day.

In October, the country is in its third wave of cases--particularly in the Upper Midwest.  41 of the 50 states now have rising two-week average case statistics now.

He cautioned the Luther College audience to not rely on having a vaccine save us.  Osterholm says predictions are that any vaccine would be 50 percent to 60 percent effective--and that only 50 percent to 60 percent of the population will take the vaccine.  That would mean coverage of only 25 percent to 36 percent of the population--and epidemiologists say the rate should be around 60 percent of the population to be totally effective.

"We have a lot of work to be done and it won't be done soon," says Osterholm.