Even as Covid-19 vaccinations ramp up in the US, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm says the country is at a “perfect-storm moment.”
One year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, Osterholm expressed caution as the B.1.1.7 variant — first reported in the United Kingdom — has “transmission unlike I've seen any at all since this pandemic began” in some areas.
“Over 50% now of all the viruses coming from Florida, Texas, and Georgia, in fact, are this B.1.1.7 variant,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on CNN's "New Day."
Health officials in New York City say two variants — B.1.1.7 and B.1.526, first reported in New York — account for half of new cases. And Houston health officials announced that the B.1.1.7 variant has been identified in over half of the city’s wastewater treatment plants.
“The bottom line is study after study shows that it is more transmissible. And, remember, this is coming at us at the very same time we're opening up America as if there is nothing else happening,” Osterholm said.
Some governors, like Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, have lifted mask mandates and fully opened businesses.
“We’re inviting the virus to go wherever it may want over the course of the next week. So this is the challenge we have, this is all kind of a perfect-storm moment. Will this increase transmissibility? Will this more serious illness with us opening up — at the same time doing more vaccination — how will this all play out? And I think the dynamics of the virus right now, I'm afraid, are going to beat us at the vaccination game,” he said.