Episode 96: A Familiar Uncertainty Chris Dall: [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to the Osterholm Update COVID-19, a podcast on the COVID-19 pandemic with Dr. Michael Osterholm. Dr. Osterholm is an internationally recognized medical detective and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, or CIDRAP at the University of Minnesota. In this podcast, Dr. Osterholm will draw on more than 45 years of experience investigating infectious disease outbreaks to provide straight talk on the COVID-19 pandemic. I'm Chris Dall, reporter for CIDRAP News, and I'm your host for these conversations. Welcome back, everyone, to another episode of the Osterholm Update podcast. Once again, the US appears to be in a period of uncertainty in this pandemic, a feeling that by now has become quite familiar. Clearly the country is in a far better position than it was just two months ago when we were averaging more than 740,000 COVID-19 cases a day. But with cases rising in Europe and the BA.2 sub-variant now accounting for more than a third of new US cases, it appears an uptick in infections is likely. What is uncertain is what the uptick will look like. Will it be a small increase or a new surge? And are we prepared to handle a new surge when so many people and policymakers are done with the pandemic and mitigation efforts are unlikely to return? That will be our focus today on this March 24th episode of the podcast as we assess the state of the COVID-19 pandemic here in the US and around the world. We'll also get an update on the discussions around the potential fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines, talk about the latest news on COVID-19 vaccines for young children, answer a COVID query about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and share the latest beautiful place submission from one of our listeners. But before we get started, as always, we'll begin with Dr. Osterholm's opening comments and dedication. Michael Osterholm: [00:01:54] Thank you, Chris. And welcome to all of you to another episode of the update. As I say, weekly and meant very sincerely, for those of you who are coming to visit us for the first time, we welcome you. We hope that we can provide you with the kind of information that you find helpful. For those who are part of the podcast family, buckle up your seat belts. This is going to be another one of those episodes where unfortunately, the more I know, the less I know. And today I'm going to share that context with you. We are in a period right now, I think, of real uncertainty. What will happen over the course of the next few weeks? I know what we want to have happen, particularly here in the United States, but I'm not sure what that necessarily is going to look like yet. It's in that regard with our 102nd episode that we should be finding ourselves with more clarity, but in many instances it's just the opposite. And as for that reason, today I dedicate this podcast to all of us, not you, all of us who remain confused about what the immediate or even intermediate future looks like with regard to COVID. We want to find a reason why we can stop listening to this podcast or for us recording it because you have other, more important things in life to do that aren't really dependent on knowing about COVID. So, again, dedicated to all of us that understand how confused we feel. Now, the good news, of course, is that we are still at that point in the year where the sunlight is becoming a more and more wonderful commodity every day. Today, here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, on March 24th, we will have 12 hours, 22 minutes and 14 seconds of sunlight. Compared to just one week ago, Saint Patrick's Day, we've gained 22 minutes and 5 seconds of sunlight just in the past week. And this is obviously a wonderful gift. We've gained 3 hours and 26 minutes of sunlight since the winter solstice on December 21st. And it'll only get better from here. For those in the southern hemisphere, we're sending our light to you. So in short, buckle your seat belt. We will begin trying to decipher all this confusing information and what it means. Chris Dall: [00:04:09] Mike, let's start our international section once again with the Western Pacific region, where several countries that have been hit hard by Omicron appear to be starting to see cases decline. Is Omicron peaking or has it peaked in this part of the world? Michael Osterholm: [00:04:25] Well, that's a great question, Chris, and I'll do my best to provide some sense of the situation in

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