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Virus Expert Just Issued "Potentially Dangerous" COVID Warning

Here's what to be aware of next.

Over the last few weeks, the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2 has caused COVID cases to skyrocket in Europe. BA.2 has now found its way over to the U.S. and accounts for a little more than one-third of cases. Does this mean the U.S. is headed for another COVID wave? On the latest episode of his podcast, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm looked at various trends and warned that one is "setting the U.S. up for a potentially dangerous situation." Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Future Is Unclear

Portrait of doctor with face mask and clipboard looking at camera in hospital.

Like most health experts, Osterholm is having trouble predicting how BA.2 might affect the U.S. in the coming weeks. "Right now, we're looking pretty good, but I can't give you any sense of what the future might look like in one, two, four, or five weeks with any clarity," he said, pointing out that U.S. average daily cases are at their lowest point since July 2021, with BA.2 accounting for 35% of new infections. But there is a sign that cases are going up, read on.

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A Sign in the Water?

Medical staff work in the intensive care ward for COVID-19 patients

However, Osterholm said, wastewater testing indicates that COVID levels are starting to tick up again in the U.S. "As of Monday, five states were seeing increasing cases over the past two weeks," he said. "Nevada has seen a 29% increase. New York has seen a 21% increase, Arkansas 18%, Colorado 10% and Rhode Island, 4%. 

"Notice they are geographically dispersed throughout much of the country," he said. "There is growing concern that a rise in cases, similar to what Europe is seeing right now, may be coming to the U.S. And it's something we need to be prepared for, even though we can't predict when, where, or how big that surge might be."

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A Troubling Difference Between the U.S. And Europe

Ambulance at Piccadilly Circus at night

Europe is experiencing a BA.2 surge despite more of its population being vaccinated than the U.S. America's vaccination rates "are very low compared to other countries, ranking 65th for vaccination rates with two doses and 70th for three doses," said Osterholm. "Coupled with decreasing funding for preparedness and response, this is setting the U.S. up for a potentially dangerous situation." Several states are closing testing sites and cutting back on daily COVID reporting. And funding for additional COVID protection is now stuck in Congress. The White House announced this week that it didn't have the funds to buy a fourth vaccine dose for all Americans.

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America Still "At the Mercy" Of COVID

Temporary Corona vaccination center in warehouse with cabins.

Because of all this, "The U.S. continues to be ill-prepared to protect against or respond to another surge or another new variant," said Osterholm. "Unfortunately, given these circumstances, we will find ourselves again largely at the mercy of the virus. And only with time will we understand what our likely outcome is to be."   

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor's gloved hands using cotton before vaccine.

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, 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, 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.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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