Dr. Osterholm says Minnesotans have forgotten about COVID-19

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University of Minnesota infectious disease researcher Dr. Michael Osterholm is anything but optimistic about corralling the coronavirus pandemic as the seasons change.

“Going into the fall, it’s not looking good,” he told Dave Lee on the WCCO Morning News.

He’s basing his opinion on the state health department reporting 1,318 new positive COVID-19 tests between Saturday and Sunday. That’s more than any one-day increase in Minnesota since the pandemic began.

The previous high was reported earlier in the weekend.

And Dr. Osterholm expects more high numbers this week.“What we’re seeing is, people, basically, have pretty much forgotten about the virus in many parts of our state,” he said. “For that matter, the whole country.”

Dr. Osterholm points to large gatherings of people, both outdoors and inside closed spaces, and the lack of precautions taken.“People (are) just wanting to be together, it’s going to be a real challenge,” he said, pointing out that an after-summer spike has been predicted for some time.

Also talked about since the early stages of the pandemic are herd immunity, which had been tried in Sweden.

“I just talked to individuals from Sweden yesterday,” said Osterholm. “They’re not even close. The idea that it’s happened in Sweden is absolutely just zero.”Figures show less than 20 percent of Sweden’s population that have been infected, recovered, and developed some sort of immunity."

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Osterholm said the concept of herd immunity, where so many people survived infection that the virus can’t spread as fast, involves an infection rate of between 50 and 70 percent of the population.

Recent infection numbers have been low in Sweden, but Osterholm likens the spread of a wildfire that misses some areas then comes back and burns it later.

"Mark my words, within weeks to several months we’re going to see cases pick up a lot in Sweden,” he said. “There’s nothing magical that’s happened there whatsoever.”