U.S. must confront Covid spike, noted epidemiologist warns

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A leading epidemiologist said Sunday the nation has to accept that a new wave of Covid cases has hit the United States.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, echoed the warnings of CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who said last week: "I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom." She spoke about being "scared" about the possibility of a sharp increase in cases even as millions of Americans are being vaccinated.

"She was being a truth teller," Osterholm said on "Fox News Sunday." "What she said is exactly right scientifically, and what we’re doing in terms of our response to this virus is in fact a major challenge right now, so I congratulate her for her honesty with the public."

Osterholm said Americans were not being realistic in the face of his new spike, which he said was being driven by a Covid variant.

"We are the only country in the world right now experiencing this increasing number of cases due to this variant and at the same time, opening up, not closing down," he told host Chris Wallace. "The two basically are going to collide, and we are going to see substantially increased number of cases."

He said he realized his message was not what people wanted to hear right now.

"I understand the absolute resistance in this country even to consider that and you know — it’s kind of like trying to drink barbed wire — but the bottom line message of the virus is it’s going to do what it’s going to do, and we are going to have to respond somehow," Osterholm said, adding it might involve pulling "back on some of the restrictions that we’ve loosened up on."

The largest recent spike in cases has been in the Upper Midwest. "If I think anyone in Michigan had thought they would see 8,400 new cases on Saturday like they did, no one would have believed that a month ago," Osterholm said.

The United States has had more than 30 million Covid cases and more than 554,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Osterholm added: "Nobody wants to be the person to die three days before they were supposed to get their Covid shot."

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