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US sees ‘fourth wave’ of coronavirus infections due to variants: Osterholm

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Epidemiologist Dr Michael Osterholm believes the United States is witnessing a “fourth wave” of infections from variants of the coronavirus that have emerged in recent months.

Osterholm, who was a member of President Biden’s COVID-19 transitional advisory board, said the variants posed a significant problem despite existing vaccines appearing to be effective against them.

“I believe in some ways we are almost in a new pandemic,” Osterholm told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “The only good news is that the current vaccines are effective against this particular variant B.1.1.7.”

Dr Michael Osterholm, Professor Regents, McKnight Presidential Chair in Public Health, and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, left, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, right, announced advances for COVID-19 testing in Minnesota, Wednesday April 22, 2020 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Dr Michael Osterholm, Professor Regents, McKnight Presidential Chair in Public Health, and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, left, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, right, announced advances for COVID-19 testing in Minnesota, Wednesday April 22, 2020 in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Glen Stubbe / Star Tribune via Getty Images)

B.1.1.7 is also known as the “UK variant”.

Scientists feared that the variant, which was found to be much easier to spread than the original coronavirus, would also render newly developed vaccines unnecessary.

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Vaccines have so far proven effective in preventing infection, but Osterholm noted a number of other concerns raised by this particular variant.

One of the main concerns highlighted by Osterholm is that B.1.1.7 appears to be more virulent in children.

“They are now, as children, infected at the same rate as adults,” Osterholm explained. “They are very effective at transmitting the virus.”

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“In Minnesota alone, in the last two weeks we’ve had 749 schools with cases,” he said.

Minnesota has 5,123 public and private PK-12 schools, according to GreatSchools.org, which would indicate that 14% of schools in the state have reported a case of coronavirus.

Osterholm has not suggested locking the country, mainly due to “absolute resistance” to any kind of lockdown.

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“There isn’t a country in the world right now that sees a big increase in this B.1.1.7 that doesn’t lock in. We are the exception,” Osterholm said, although he did has not addressed any comparison between the United States and Europe with respect to vaccine distribution.

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He called the variant a “game changer” and insisted that the focus should be on the next two to three months as long as people continue to get vaccinated and follow basic health guidelines, including hand washing and wearing masks. and social distancing.

“No one wants to be the person who dies three days before they’re supposed to get the COVID shot. That’s what we were trying to avoid right now.”

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