Top infectious-disease expert says 'the next 6 to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic'

Top infectious-disease expert says 'the next 6 to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic'
Dr. Michael Osterholm during an appearance on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday, October 18, 2020.Meet the Press/NBC
  • Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has said "the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic."
  • During an appearance on "Meet the Press," Osterholm said the US was suffering from a "messaging problem" created in part by the lack of a strong "lead" voice to guide Americans through the pandemic.
  • "Between now and the holidays, we will see numbers much, much larger than even the 67,000 to 75,000" daily cases, he predicted Sunday.

A leading US infectious-disease expert warned Sunday that the next three months might be the "darkest of the entire pandemic," citing what he described as a "major problem in messaging" related to COVID-19.

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

Osterholm told the "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd that despite some progress, "vaccines will not become available in any meaningful way until early to third quarter of next year."
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"And even then, half of the US population, at this point, is skeptical of even taking the vaccine," Osterholm said. "So what we have right now is a major problem in messaging."

As Business Insider previously reported, the race to establish a COVID-19 vaccine has already surpassed records for speed, prompting concern that the vaccine is being rushed for political purposes despite a rare joint pledge from drugmakers to ensure that the vaccine is developed safely.

Osterholm on Sunday said part of the messaging problem was the lack of a "lead" voice to guide Americans during the latest stage of the pandemic. Osterholm is just one of numerous epidemiologists who for months have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic would worsen in the fall and winter months.
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"Friday, we had 70,000 cases, matching the largest number we had seen back during the really serious peak in July," he said Sunday. "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 emphasized the need for leadership in the form of a "good story" that "is more than just science.""This is bringing people together to understand, why are we doing this? This is an FDR fireside-chat approach," Osterholm said. "And we're just not doing that."
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According to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, the US had recorded more than 8.1 million cases of COVID-19 and at least 219,000 deaths as of Sunday. According to the data, more than 57,000 new cases of the virus were reported in the US on Saturday.

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