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Former member of President Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board Michael Osterholm poured water on White House claims from earlier this month that the U.S. could see up to 100 million coronavirus cases this fall and winter.
In an interview last week with CNN analyst Peter Bergen, Osterholm described the White House’s prediction as “a whiplash moment” considering it clashed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now only recommending that masks be worn on public transit, rather than stating they should be required.
“There seems to be a big disconnect between the White House recently predicting up to 100 million cases in the fall and earlier this month the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only making a recommendation about wearing masks on public transportation,” Bergen asked Osterholm during the interview.
“Yes, I think this has been kind of a whiplash moment for the public on Covid-19. You also had the statement made recently saying that we are on the downside of the pandemic,” Osterholm responded, referencing an April statement by Dr. Anthony Fauci that the U.S. was “certainly” “out of the pandemic phase” of dealing with the coronavirus.
Fauci later walked back his comments, appearing on an NPR podcast to tell Americans the pandemic was “not over.”
“His comment was obviously interpreted by most to mean that the pandemic was over. I realize that he was referring to the fact that we’re out of the big peak of cases right now, which is true,” Osterholm said.
“On the other hand, I’ve seen no data which supports the possibility of a fall or winter surge in the U.S. resulting in 100 million cases. No one should make that kind of statement without providing the assumptions behind that number,” he added.
Osterholm argued that such case numbers were a possibility, but that it was “more likely” to happen if a new, more infectious variant showed up that could evade “existing immune protection.”
“Any modeling that looks beyond 30 days out is largely based on pixie dust. I worry that the White House has gotten way ahead of their skis on this one,” he said, before going on to express his support for the Biden administration’s efforts to secure additional funding to fight the coronavirus.
Osterholm later appeared to criticize those who attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last month, including Biden, explaining that although he wasn’t invited, he would not have attended if he was.
“Was the White House Correspondents’ dinner an accident waiting to happen?” Bergen asked.
“Oh, absolutely, it was. And it’s not just the Correspondents’ Dinner. It’s all the parties around it,” Osterholm said.
Osterholm later argued that the U.S. was not prepared for the next pandemic, citing Americans’ low level of trust in public health, including the CDC, Congress’ debate over coronavirus funding, and a short-staffed medical field.
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