As Minnesota begins its "phase three" of reopening the state during the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Michael Osterholm says that we are learning how to live with the virus in our daily lives.
While 22 states have reported increases in cases, 23 have reported decreases in cases in the last week. Dr. Osterholm says there is some good news there, but that he isn't sure if it will stay like that.
"Well, we're not sure, and I think that's the best way to state it. First of all, remember that hospitalizations reflect what happened 2 to 3 weeks ago in terms of transmission, because by the time you actually become infected, get sick, get sick enough to be hospitalized. You're talking about that kind of a time period. "
One issue in Minnesota is the spread of coronavirus during the recent civil unrest. After the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody, thousands of people protested and thousands more have gathered at 38th and Nicollet, the site of his murder, which is now a memorial to Floyd. Osterholm says that health officials are waiting to see what the large gatherings do to the number of cases and hospitalizations.
"We're all anxiously waiting to see what impact the protests may have had in terms of bringing large groups of people together. Whether or not that's going to start to show uh, the increase in cases because of those exposures that would start to happen in the next week or two."
As restaurants start to offer indoor seating, gyms open up to 25% capacities and entertainment venues start to ramp back up, Dr. Osterholm says that this is an important part of learning to live with coronavirus.
"We are, what I would call, living real life right now, meaning that in fact, you know we can't stay locked out for 12, 16, 18 months with the hope of having a vaccine is going to rescue us. That not only destroys the economy, which people think means putting dollars and lives and conflict. It's about our society's way. We've already seen how the public's ability to stay locked down is very limited, and I don't mean that in a bad way. We all want to be social, you know, have interactions, etcetera. But that's a reality that we have to deal with."
As some countries have dealt with the coronavirus in different ways, Dr. Osterholm thinks that Minnesota's trial by fire way has worked and will hopefully continue to work as the virus continues to be apart of our lives.
"I think we're all trying to do is basically how do we, you know, find that that right place to be, as I keep saying, threading the rope through the needle where basically, we have society as open as we can, but also suppressing as many cases as possible with the idea we're postponing into getting a vaccine. You know, there's no sense here that these will magically go away. They're not. This virus is going to continue to circulate in our society. We're going to see it more in the everyday life of all of us. We will one day know someone in their families or friends or colleagues who will have a serious illness with this virus or die. That's going to change over time as more and more people have that. So I think what we're trying to do is craft how do we find the right flavor of life for living with coronavirus as well is dying with it, and that's the challenge we have today. So we'll find out as we see as we open up more and more what that means with cases. If we do in fact have a flu-like model here, we may see cases disappear for several months because we don't know why that happens. But in previous flu pandemics, they just appear and then the big wave comes back."