An Expert Explains How To Assess COVID-19 Risk
June 18, 2020
Across the country, states are loosening the restrictions that had been put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 -- with varying results. New cases are decreasing in some states, including New York, Michigan and Colorado, while case numbers and hospitalizations have swelled recently in several states, including Texas, Arizona and Florida.
"Since the very first day of this pandemic, I don't think [we've been] in a more confused position about what's happening," epidemiologist Michael Osterholm says. "We just aren't quite sure what [the coronavirus is] going to do next."
Osterholm is the founder and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. His 2017 book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, was recently republished with a new foreword about COVID-19. Mark Olshaker is the book's co-author.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, the coronavirus has often been treated as a political issue rather than a public health issue -- and much has been made of President Trump's refusal to wear a mask in public. But Osterholm says that the risks from COVID-19 supersede partisanship.
"We will all know somebody -- we will all love somebody -- who will die from this disease," he says. "Eventually there won't be any blue states or red states. There won't be any blue cities or red rural areas. It'll all be COVID colored."
Osterholm says that face masks and physical distancing remain the best practices in terms of curbing the spread of the coronavirus. But he adds that "distancing" shouldn't mean cutting off all social contact.
"It's physical distancing. ... Don't socially distance. If there was ever a time when we all need each other, it's now," he says. "We need to start an epidemic of kindness right now to take on this pandemic of this virus."