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Virus Expert Just Warned We Are in "Eye of the Hurricane"

“We've been through a terrible, terrible year," and it could get worse.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek
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One of the nation's preeminent coronavirus experts, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, appeared on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning with a pail of cold water to pour on anyone who thinks the worst of the virus is behind us. "Let me just say we are in the eye of the hurricane right now," said Osterholm to host Chuck Todd. He said the rising, more transmissible variants and recent spikes in Europe were cause for concern, not a relaxation of restrictions. Read on for more of his warning—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus

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Dr. Osterholm Warned That "We Are in the Eye of the Hurricane"

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"Let me just say we are in the eye of the hurricane right now," said Osterholm. "It appears that things are going very well." You might "see blue skies," he said. "We've been through a terrible, terrible year, but what we know is about to come upon us is this situation with this variant of virus that originated the United Kingdom, that today is wreaking havoc in parts of Europe—27 countries have seen significant cases with this really hitting hard. Many of these countries have been in lockdown now for two months, just to try to control this virus." Just recently, the variants made up "4% of the viruses we were seeing in communities across the country. Today it's up to 30 to 40%. And when we've seen in Europe, when we hit that 50% mark you'll see cases surge. So right now we do have to keep America as safe as we can from this virus, by not letting up on any of the public health measures we've taken. And we need to get people vaccinated as quickly as we can."

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Dr. Osterholm Said a Lot of High-Risk Patients are in Danger

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Dr. Osterholm congratulated the Biden administration on their vaccine effort but said "we also have to tell the story of what is still ahead of us. And at 2.9 to 3 million doses of vaccine a day over the next six to 14 weeks—when this surge is likely to happen—is not going to really take care of the problem at all right now. Over half of our seniors in this country either have not been vaccinated or have just started their first dose. That means that where 80% of the deaths typically occur, which is in that age group, they are highly vulnerable going into the next four to six weeks. Now I have to tell you, I'm very grateful that we have vaccinated the 1.4 million people in long-term care facilities, but we still have a lot of high-risk people out there that when this surge comes, basically they're going to be highly vulnerable."

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Dr. Osterholm Said The Variant Means We Should Not Rush to Open Schools

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"The other thing we see right now is every governor wants to open schools," said Osterholm. "And I understand that as a grandfather, five children, I have grandchildren, I get it. But the problem is, if you look at Europe right now, the challenge we're seeing is a lot of transmission in schools with this new variant. In my home state of Minnesota, we just announced on Friday, an outbreak of over 68 individuals in high school community-wide sports. So we're going to have some tough days ahead in the older population and in the younger population with this new variant virus."

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Dr. Osterholm Said We Need Realistic Guidance About What You Can and Cannot Do After Vaccination

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the CDC will release guidance soon about what equally vaccinated people can and cannot do. Until then: "We have to acknowledge that, what is the public likely to do with any guidance that we give them?" said Osterholm. "If we just tell people that they've got to stay cocooned, that they've got to stay in their homes, that they've got to continue to wear their mask, even though they're fully vaccinated, they're not going to do that. They're going to disregard the public health recommendation. So we have to get real. We have to say, you know, what, what does it mean if I've not seen my grandchildren for the last year? And I'm now vaccinated, my spouse is vaccinated. You know, can I see those kids are not, they're not like they have a vaccine through next fall or next winter, we have to be practical….So what can we provide them reasonable information that gives them the best case for protecting themselves. Like, you know what? You wouldn't catch me tonight in a crowded restaurant somewhere, even with vaccination. I think that's what we have to concentrate on and let them do the kinds of things that are really much safer."

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How to Stay Safe During This Pandemic

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Follow Fauci's fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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