Story at a glance

  • Michael Osterholm said in Minnesota nearly 750 schools reported cases of the more contagious variant over the last two weeks.
  • “In fact, right here in Minnesota, we’re now seeing the other aspect of this B.1.1.7 variant that hasn’t been talked much about, and that is the fact that it infects kids very readily,” he said.
  • He said the variant is driving the recent spike in cases in the Upper Midwest and Northeast, and the U.S. is just beginning to see the start of a fourth wave.

A top epidemiologist is warning the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom may infect children more easily than previous strains. 

“This B.1.1.7 variant is a brand new ballgame,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said during an interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press


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“In fact, right here in Minnesota, we’re now seeing the other aspect of this B.1.1.7 variant that hasn’t been talked much about, and that is the fact that it infects kids very readily,” he said. 

Osterholm said in Minnesota nearly 750 schools reported cases of the more contagious variant over the last two weeks. The warning comes as kids all across the country have gone back into the classroom after months of learning from home. 

“Unlike the previous strains of the virus, we didn’t see children under eighth grade get infected often, or they were not frequently very ill. They didn’t transmit to the rest of the community. That’s why I was one of those people very strongly supporting reopening in-class learning. B.1.1.7 turns that on its head.” 

Osterholm said the U.K. variant is between 50 to 100 percent more infectious than previous strains and can cause more severe illness about 55 percent of the time. 

He said the variant is driving the recent spike in cases in the Upper Midwest and Northeast and the U.S. is just beginning to see the start of a fourth wave. While he applauded the Biden administration’s efforts to get vaccines to millions of people, he said immunizations weren’t rolling out fast enough to avoid an imminent surge. 

Other experts, however, say a resurgence of COVID-19 in the U.S. could be avoided. 

Former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb said Sunday he doesn’t believe there will be a “true fourth wave” due to the vaccine rollout. 

“I think that there’s enough immunity in the population that you’re not going to see a true fourth wave of infection,” Gottlieb told CBS’s Face the Nation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19 percent of the total U.S. population has been vaccinated and 32 percent have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 


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Published on Apr 05, 2021