A top infectious disease expert warned Sunday that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic may still be to come.
Michael Osterholm — who serves as director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and formerly served as a member on the Biden transition team's COVID-19 advisory board — compared the incoming disaster to that of a "Category 5" hurricane forming offshore and heading for the United States.
What did he say?
Osterholm told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" Sunday that he expects the new faster-spreading coronavirus variant first discovered in United Kingdom to sweep through the U.S. starting between six and 14 weeks from now.
If that happens, "we are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country," he said.
"England, for example, is hospitalizing twice as many people as we ever hospitalized at our highest number," he added.
In order to prevent a new surge of cases that could overload America's health system, Olsterholm suggested calling an "audible" on vaccine distribution. Instead of administering second doses, he said, we should be rapidly administering first doses to the elderly and other people in high-risk categories who have yet to receive the vaccine.
Though he warned it won't be easy to change course now, with many starting to embrace a post-pandemic world.
"Imagine where we're at, Chuck, right now: You and I are sitting on this beach where it's 70 degrees, perfectly blue skies, gentle breeze. But I see that hurricane ... Category 5 or higher, 450 miles offshore," he said. "And telling people to evacuate in that nice blue sky day is gonna be hard. But I can also tell you that hurricane's coming."
Should the surge not be contained, Osterholm anticipated that lockdown measures — such as those experienced in places like New York and California, until recently — would be reinstated.
"What we have to do now is also anticipate this and understand that we're going to have to change quickly," he said. "As fast as we're opening restaurants, we're likely to be closing them in the near term."
The only good news, it seems, according to Olsterholm, is that the variant, known as B.1.1.7 is not believed to be resistant to vaccination. Though it may lead to more serious illness.
"Fortunately, that one has not shown its ability to evade the protection from the vaccine," he continued. "But its ability to cause many more infections and much more serious illness is there."
Full Osterholm: 'We Need To Get As Many One-Doses … As We Possibly Can" | Meet The Press | NBC News youtu.be