Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said Sunday that the United States is in “category five hurricane status” with regard to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, citing the threat of variants of the virus.
Osterholm, told a US television networks that the United States is approaching another surge of Covid-19 cases, citing a pattern where cases rise rapidly in the Upper Midwest and Northeast then subside and surge in the Southern Sunbelt states, before subsiding and then reemerging in the Northeast and Midwest.
“At this time, we really are in a category five hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world,” Osterholm said. “At this point, we will see in the next two weeks the highest number of cases reported globally since the end of the pandemic. In terms of the United States, we’re just at the beginning of this surge. We haven’t even really begun to see it yet.”
He cited Michigan reporting 8,413 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the highest daily count since 9,350 on Dec. 7, as a “wakeup call.”
“We’re now seeing increasing numbers of severe illnesses: ICU, hospitalization in individuals who are between 30 and 50 years of age who have not been vaccinated,” he said.
The United States reported 62,154 new cases and 676 deaths from Saturday, and a total of 30,695,502 infections and 554,945 fatalities since the start of the pandemic, leading the world in both totals, according to data gathered by John Hopkins University.
Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of April1 there are 12,505 cases of Covid-19 caused by the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in Britain in 51 states and territories, 323 cases of the B.1.351 variant first reported in South Africa in 31 jurisdictions, while 224 cases of the Brazilian P.1 variant have been found in 22 states and territories.
Osterholm also warned that the B.117 variant has shown to cause more infections in children and said that other mutations such as the so-called “Eek” variant that has emerged in Japan could continue to emerge unless global vaccine distribution improves.
“Right now, if you look at the vaccine distribution around the world, 10 countries have received about 80 percent of the vaccine. Thirty countries have not seen even a drop of it,” he said. “If we continue to see this virus spread throughout the low and middle-income countries unfettered, they’re going to spit out variants over the course of the next years that, in each and every instance, could challenge our vaccines.”