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Disease Expert Dr. Michael Osterholm Says We're In 'Darkest Days' Of Pandemic Until Vaccine Available Next Spring

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- University of Minnesota infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm -- recently tapped for President-elect Joe Biden's COVID task force -- says the "darkest days of this pandemic" are between now and when a vaccine becomes available next spring.

Osterholm joined CBS This Morning on Tuesday where he discussed the new coronavirus advisory panel, the surge in cases, the overall outlook of the pandemic and vaccinations.

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"I'm very encouraged that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are really looking at the really critical issues of how we can stop this virus right now, what can we do to transition to vaccines," Osterholm said of the new COVID task force. "So, I think it's going to offer good information for how cities, states and counties can move forward on their own without any other federal leadership."

Osterholm says he's also encouraged that "science will run the day" and he also praised the other members of the advisory board. They include former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler, and Yale University's Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

The United States is at about 10 million COVID-19 cases and 240,000 deaths. Osterholm says "there's no question" hospitals in the country will be overrun due to surging cases.

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"We're going to see, by far, the darkest days of this pandemic between now and next spring when the vaccine becomes available," Osterholm said.

Currently, new cases in the country run about 120,000 to 130,000 a day. Osterholm says that could spike to 200,000.

"We have a perfect storm coming together," he said on the factors influencing the surge in cases. "We have pandemic fatigue. People who were distancing themselves from others for months who just decided, you know, I'm kinda done with it. Even though the virus isn't done with them."

Osterholm also says there's a group he calls "pandemic anger", up to one-third of the U.S. population, who still believe the virus is a hoax and politically motivated.

"Then you pile that together with indoor air. We're basically bringing people together much more where transmission is enhanced," he said.

On vaccines, Osterholm says there's still a lot of education that needs to be done to reach many communities who are wary of the vaccine.

"We're seeing data right now suggesting 50% to 75% -- particularly in our communities of color -- are not at all willing to take the vaccine because of concerns for safety," Osterholm said. "We have a lot of educating to do before we see people transfer a vaccine to a vaccination."

Pfizer recently announced that trials show its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective on people who haven't had the virus. Even if approved, it could take months to implement.


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