Virus Expert Says COVID Cases are Rising Now
As cases rise, Dr. Michael Osterholm is back with essential COVID advice.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, a renowned epidemiologist, has been at the forefront of analyzing the COVID-19 pandemic and its various facets. His insights and expertise have provided valuable guidance throughout the pandemic. As cases rise again, Dr. Osterholm discusses, on his podcast, critical topics related to COVID-19, including the impact of new variants like the BA 2.86 variant, the EG.5 variant, the importance of booster shots and public health precautions. "The current resurgence of COVID cases can be attributed to a combination of factors: waning immunity and the presence of variants. This underscores the urgency of booster shots as a pivotal tool in our ongoing battle," he said. Here's what he said about what to watch for.
"We are seeing case numbers increase and I think this is where the EG.5 is particularly a very important consideration and that, in fact, we may very well be seeing that as the reason for these increases," he said. "I can't give you the exact reason why we're seeing this case increase other than I think it's the combination of waning immunity and these variants that are causing this increased occurrence…"
"Well, the variants are the inevitable curve ball that keep getting thrown into the mix here, and it is important to understand that there is more to them than just a big name change. A number change. What does it mean with their functionality? What does it mean in terms of evading immune protection? Can it cause more serious illness? But let me just address this most recent BA 2.86 variant that's gotten a lot of publicity."
"Anytime someone says, oh my, this thing has over 34 different mutations on the spike protein, it makes it seem as if this is going to be really, really bad. But as I pointed out in the last podcast and I've said many times over the years, remember that a variant must really be considered innocent until proven guilty, and in this case, I think that's what we're going to see happening here."
"Data are coming out in several online sources with reassuring news about the potential threat of BA 2.86, but it's important to note that these studies have not yet been peer-reviewed and there may be some limitations to their interpretation, but I think on a whole they're well done and are important," Osterholm said. "Based on their data, it appears as though previous and recent exposure to X P B sub-variants increased neutralizing antibody titers. Moreover, these two preliminary conclusions appear to contradict early fears of the highly mutated variants' immune evasion capabilities."
New COVID boosters are expected to be approved and available this month. "We've had several listeners ask about whether the updated COVID-19 booster shot will be covered by Medicaid and/or private insurance. While we don't know for certain whether all employers and health insurance companies will cover the fall COVID booster, we do know that all Americans will be able to get the updated vaccines at no cost through the CDC's Bridge to Access program," said Osterholm. "The Bridge to Access program does provide free COVID-19 vaccinations for adults that are uninsured or for whose insurance does not cover the Covid booster."
Dr. Osterholm added: "The concerning spillover of COVID-19 into white-tailed deer populations demands our attention. A study led by Andy Bowman reveals that during the deer hunting season, Ohio experienced 12 documented human-to-deer transmission events. This phenomenon highlights the need for further research and continuous vigilance to protect both human and animal health."