While the pandemic isn't over, Osterholm says 'the public is done'

COVID-19 cases are continuing to fall across the country, and the world, as the omicron surge continues to pass. But some experts warn that we are moving on from COVID safety protocols too soon.

Dr. Michael Ostehrolm shared with News Talk 830 WCCO's Vineeta Sawkar that no matter how much people want it to be, the pandemic isn't over yet.

The doctor reiterated that while cases are falling from their peaks, the number of COVID-19 cases in the tail of the surge are still much higher than they were pre-omicron.

"The tail of that peak isn't done yet," Osterholm said. "We still are seeing transmission out there. While the number of patients hospitalized has been decreasing, they are still in many parts of the country at 95% capacity in hospital beds or particularly in ICU beds."

Osterholm added that cases "will come down even more over the next several weeks, but right now, it's not as if somehow it's just disappeared."

With transmission still occurring, those at risk for the virus need to continue to protect themselves and not act as if the pandemic is over, Osterholm said.

The doctor added that he thinks the public is done with the pandemic, but he still encourages people to take precautions and remain vigilant as the virus isn't gone.

Over the last week, several cities and states have dropped their mask or vaccine mandates. However, when it comes to the removal of these mandates, Osterholm says it's complicated.

During the beginning of the pandemic, the epidemiologist shared that mask mandates will do very little if the correct masks — high-quality masks capable of preventing transmission — are not worn and worn consistently.

"I have all along said if you are going to mandate something that's not all that effective, what do you accomplish except aggravating and alienating a lot of people," Osterholm said. "At the same time, if you can and are able to wear these high-quality masks that really will protect you, then that's a different story."

However, Osterholm says that "the public's done." So the only thing the doctor says that people can do is to protect themselves by getting fully vaccinated and wearing an N95 mask for at least a couple more weeks.

Last year during this time, Osterholm shared that he thought the darkest days of the pandemic were still ahead of us, not knowing what variants could arise. Despite being criticized for his comments, he stood by them.

"Look what happened," the doctor said, pointing to both the delta and omicron variants.

Now, a year later, Osterholm is being cautious of the days ahead again, with the possibility of new variants still looming.

"I do worry that down the road, we could see another variant like omicron come out of the middle of nowhere, and that surely is a possibility," Osterholm said. "I hope it doesn't happen, but as I've said many times, 'Hope is not a strategy.' So we've got to be prepared for one down the road, and I think right now, people don't even want to hear about that. They don't even want to think about that.

"I understand why. We're all tired. But we have to acknowledge that just because we are done with the virus doesn't mean the virus is done with us."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images