Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota said Thursday “we have every reason to believe” coronavirus cases will rise.
Osterholm told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd the virus is either more contagious, results in greater illness or beats “the antibody protection of the vaccine as a natural infection.”
Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who served as a COVID-19 advisor on President Joe Biden’s transition team, said the virus strain that greatly affected the U.K. threatens to do the same in the U.S.
“There’s one [strain] now that is circulating in the United States and growing very quickly in numbers called B.1.1.7,” Osterholm said.
“It originated in the U.K. This is a virus that is anywhere from 40% to 60% more infectious and is one that causes more serious illness,” Osterholm said.
“Many are still in lockdown and have been for up to two months and what happened in each of those countries was when the percentage of the B.1.1.7 went past 50% of all the viruses being found, there was major surges in cases,” Osterholm said.
The U.K. variant has “become the predominant strain and we have every reason to believe what’s happened in Europe will happen here,” Osterholm said.
Osterholm said while case numbers have dramatically decreased in comparison to January and virus deaths and hospitalizations are down, many people aren’t recalling that in the past, virus numbers have risen after decreasing.
“This time we have something very different happening. Since November this virus has been mutating in a way that causes what we say are variants of concern, mutations of concern,” Osterholm said.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that the state’s businesses can return to full operation next Wednesday and Texans won’t be required to wear masks in public, according to The Dallas Morning News.