Osterholm says mandates should end soon, but 'we're not done with COVID yet'

COVID-19 vaccine passport and mask.
COVID-19 vaccine passport and mask. Photo credit Getty Images

When COVID-19 vaccine mandates were put in place in St. Paul and Minneapolis last month, Mayors Melvin Carter and Jacob Frey shared that they would only be temporary, and experts expect them to go away soon.

Dr. Michael Osterholm shared why he believes the mandates are going to end soon with News Talk 830 WCCO's Vineeta Sawkar.

"If I could compare this to a classic three-act play, we're basically in the third act; there's no question about that," Osterholm said. "But the last five minutes is kind of the 'whodunnit?'"

Osterholm explained that while we have passed the peak for the omicron surge, we still don't know what the tail end of the spike is going to look like.

While he has compared the surge we saw in the last months of 2021 and the first month of this year to a "viral blizzard," we may not see blue skies immediately after the blizzard passes as we do with a real storm.

"In some areas, cases persist at a higher level than they were before omicron started, but not nearly as high as the peak," Osterholm said, pointing to South Africa, Europe, and even the U.S. "That tail of cases could last longer, but it won't be anything compared to what we've seen for the last six to eight weeks."

When it comes to the mask and vaccine mandates currently in place, Osterholm thinks we will start to see them roll back whether they are still needed or not.

"People are over this pandemic, they feel as if it doesn't exist anymore," the doctor said. "I understand that pandemic fatigue is a very difficult place to be."

When it comes to what could have been done to reduce the impact of omicron, Osterholm says it would have been to "put [mandates] in place weeks before we did."

"We've been pretty late to the game for much of the pandemic in terms of when these waves or big surges of cases occur, to put them in place, and then we often keep them on a bit longer," Osterholm said. "I think you're gonna see many of these mandates go by the wayside in the coming weeks."

Osterholm stated that the purpose for these mandates is to reduce the impact of the virus, and while a recent study from Johns Hopkins University said they don't work, there are at least five other studies that say they do.

Not only does Osterholm think Minnesota's mandates will be loosened in the coming weeks, but he also thinks there will only be a few across the country within three to five weeks. The only thing that would stop that would be if a new variant emerged.

"The challenge is, of course, the next variant," Osterholm said. "I hope that another Omicron variant doesn't show up…but hope is not a strategy. What we have to do is anticipate. We're not done with COVID yet."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images