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Osterholm gives stark warning for states reopening too soon

80% of deaths in Minnesota are in long term care, but world renowned infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm says that will soon change.

MINNEAPOLIS — On Wednesday, Minnesotans will likely learn the future of Governor Tim Walz's Stay At Home Order, set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on May 17, but renowned infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Osterholm says any debate about what to do on a week to week basis is missing the point.

KARE 11's Julie Nelson sat down for a chat with the doctor on Tuesday, where he said we all need to understand that we are only in the second inning of a nine inning game.  


Dr. Osterholm: More than 60 days ago, this virus was not even in the top 100 causes of death and as recently as the last two weeks this has been the number one cause of death in this country. So think about all the pain and suffering, death and economic disruption with 5% having been infected ... what are we going to do to get to 60 or 70%?  

So far, much of that pain and suffering has occurred in long term care facilities. In fact, 80% of deaths in Minnesota are in long term care, but Dr. Michael Osterholm says that will soon change.

Osterholm: It wont continue to be nursing homes, it won't continue to be meat packing plants, it won't continue to be prisons. We are literally burning those locations out in terms of cases, but the point is it's going to affect many other Minnesotans across the board.  Where we're at right now is we have to understand we're going to have a lot more transmission whether we open up now or not. We have to deal with the economic disruption - it's critical - but at the same time please do not see this as an end. We are talking talking about balls and strikes in the second inning.

Julie Nelson: So what would your guidance to Governor Walz be? 

Osterholm: The plan we need right now is I just want to understand how people are making a decision about: When do we release the public? How do we release them? What does that mean? I'm getting a lot of feed back from the public ... they're just confused.

Nelson: You're the expert, so what would you say?   

Osterholm: I want to see data where the virus activity is going down, that we actually have fewer hospitalizations, that we have the protective equipment for the health care workers that we need, and we have surge capacity in our hospitals if suddenly cases accelerated.

Nelson: Do you see this happening soon where we can open up more cautiously? 

Osterholm: We're going to have many openings and closings over the course of this. That's the challenge we run into ... because everybody wants a white and black answer here. It's not going to happen, and its going to get more complicated as time goes on. If you think today is complicated, I believe it is nothing compared to what it is going to be like in upcoming months or year.

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KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.