The Omicron COVID-19 variant is about to infect millions of Americans in a “viral blizzard” of cases, a leading expert has warned.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota, highlighted data from the Big Apple as proof that “outbreaks are starting to occur” from the worrying new variant.
“I think we’re really just about to experience a viral blizzard,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday.
“In the next three to eight weeks, we’re going to see millions of Americans are going to be infected with this virus,” he said, citing trends already witnessed in South Africa and Europe.
The fears are exacerbated because Omicron “will be overlaid on top of Delta,” the COVID strain that has been most prevalent for months, Osterholm said.
“And we’re not yet sure exactly how that’s going to work out,” he said, with other experts previously warning that the two strains are so different, people could potentially get infected with both at the same time.
He warned that even if hopes that Omicron causes less severe illness, the expected “big burst” in infections will likely still overwhelm hospitals and see a fresh spike in deaths.
“What you have here right now is a potential perfect storm,” Osterholm warned on Burnett’s “OutFront.”
“I’ve been very concerned about the fact that we could easily see a quarter, a third of our health care workers quickly becoming cases themselves,” he said.
“This virus is not going to eliminate its transmission from those who are health care workers. It’s going to keep going,” he said.
“We need to figure out what is our emergency plan for a combination of an increasing number of cases and decreasing number of health care workers.
“This I think is a huge challenge over the course of the next three to eight weeks,” he warned.