Infectious Disease Expert: The ‘Darkest Of The Entire Pandemic’ Has Yet To Come

Michael Osterholm

Michael Osterholm, an expert at the University of Minnesota, stressed that a lack of public confidence is largely to blame.

Michael Osterholm, a renowned infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that “the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic” and expressed concern that the U.S. lacks a leading voice to guide the public.

“Vaccines will not become available in any meaningful way until early to [the] third quarter of next year. And even then, about half of the U.S. population at this point is skeptical of even taking the vaccine,” said Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Osterholm pointed to the daily tally of 70,000 new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Friday, the highest level since July. Between now and the holidays, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. will likely “blow right through that,” he said.

He stressed that one reason for concern is that there are a number of voices guiding the public instead of just one, “which is part of the problem.”

“This is more than just science. This is bringing people together to understand why we are doing this. This is FDR fireside chat approach, and we’re just not doing that,” he said, referring to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s evening radio addresses during the Great Depression that boosted public confidence.

Osterholm said the goal is to achieve herd immunity, not by allowing people to contract the virus, but by inoculating them through a vaccination program. That requires strengthening public confidence.

“We need somebody to start to articulate, ‘What is our long-term plan? How are we going to get there? Why are we asking people to sacrifice distancing? Why are we telling people if you really love your family, you won’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and end up infecting mom or dad or grandpa and grandma.’ We don’t have that storytelling going on right now, and that’s every bit as important as the science itself,” he said.

Osterholm expected COVID-19 cases to rise in coming weeks, but he vehemently dismissed the idea that herd immunity can be a solution to the pandemic or that it can be achieved with just 20% of the population infected. That low percentage was reportedly proposed by Trump medical adviser Scott Atlas.

“First of all, that 20% number is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I’ve ever seen,” Osterholm said. “It’s 50% to 70% at minimum.” 

Dr. Anthony Fauci has also dismissed the idea that herd immunity can be achieved with such a low percentage.

Attempts to achieve herd immunity by infection, and not by vaccination, will have negative results, Osterholm added. “There will be lots of deaths, a lot of serious illnesses,” he said.

Even if 50% to 70% of the population becomes infected, virus transmission is merely slowed down, not stopped, he said.

“So this virus is going to keep looking for wood to burn for as long as it can. ... So our goal is to get as many people protected with vaccines,” he said.

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Millions of Americans are entering poverty amid pandemic as stimulus runs out

Millions of Americans have been thrown into poverty as government aid dried up in the last five months, according to a pair of studies, and those ranks will likely swell without more relief on the way.

“Poverty is rising in the United States,” Zach Parolin, a researcher at the Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy told Yahoo Finance (video above). “More families, once again, are struggling to put food on the table, struggling to provide for their families at a time when we have the means to be able to help them out.”

Read more: How to file for unemployment insurance

Eight million more Americans fell below the poverty threshold since May, a study by Columbia University found. A similar study from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame estimated 6 million Americans entered poverty for the same period. 

Without further government intervention, more Americans could follow, facing food insecurity, utility shutoffs, and even homelessness.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: People stand in line to receive food donations at a Food Bank for New York City pop up food pantry outside Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 24, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

‘Unless we see a miraculous employment recovery’

Poverty in the U.S. actually declined at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, thanks largely to two provisions in the CARES Act: stimulus checks and the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits.

Since then, there has been no second round of checks, and the extra unemployment benefits expired at the end of July. The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program — enacted by the president to make up some of the difference in unemployment — mostly expired in September, leaving unemployed workers with only their regular state benefits that replace much less of their wages.

At least 38 states have paid out all their funds available under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

“That's just a lot of money that they're going to have to do without,” Bruce Meyer, a University of Chicago economist, told Yahoo Money. “It means people are going to be cutting back on what they can.”

While the funding provided under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act was the largest economic stimulus package in history, its effects won’t last long enough to support those in financial hardship, especially when the job market and the economy haven’t recovered.

Read more: Here’s what you need to know about unemployment benefits eligibility

“Unless we see a miraculous employment recovery,” Parolin said, “it's certain that families are going to need some extra income support to be able to pay the bills and put food on the table.”

It's not sustainable

The unemployment rate remains elevated at 7.9% — the highest since 2012 — while 25 million Americans receive some type of unemployment insurance, according to the Labor Department. 

Any benefits that out-of-work Americans were able to sock away earlier are evaporating. Jobless workers more than doubled their liquid savings between March and July, according to a new study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, but they spent two-thirds of those accumulated savings in August alone. 

Jobless workers more than doubled their liquid savings between March and July, according to a new study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, but they spent two-thirds of those accumulated savings in August alone. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

“The trajectory of the August data shows that this is a trend in motion, it hasn't yet stabilized,” Fiona Greig, director of consumer research at the JPMorgan Chase Institute, told Yahoo Money. “And certainly since people were using their savings buffer, it also implies that it's not sustainable.”

Read more: Coronavirus: How to apply for food stamps

Unemployed workers also pulled back on spending, recording a 14% drop in August after a 22% increase when they got the extra $600 in benefits, the JPMorgan Chase Institute study found. This will likely hurt aggregate spending, according to Greig.

‘We can probably expect to see an increase in homelessness’

The fading effect of the stimulus comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue talks for a bipartisan stimulus deal. But disagreements on price tag and key provisions, lack of GOP support, and the proximity of the election all lower the prospects of a deal before the election.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: People stand in line to receive food donations at a Food Bank for New York City pop up food pantry outside Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 24, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

With no additional support, experts warned that the economy will slow and fewer jobs will be created. Protections for renters and borrowers also are set to expire, likely leading to another increase in poverty.

“Poverty is going to continue to rise,” Meyer said. “You're going to have people having had more and more weeks out of work, and only a fraction of those lost earnings replaced. That's going to accumulate over time.”

The financial hardships caused by this will likely mean a rise in people who can’t pay rent and utility bills, who will struggle to buy food, and who could even lose their homes.

“It’s sad to say,” Parolin said, “we can probably expect to see an increase in homelessness in the United States.”

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Trump supporting Democratic Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd-surfs at MAGA rally without a mask as he slams 'corrupt Joe Biden'

Georgia Rep. Vernon Jones treated a Trump rally in Georgie more like a concert 

  • Without wearing a face mask he dove into his supporters and crowd-surfed
  • Pictures show few in the crowd wearings masks as Jones was moved along

Democratic Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones attempted to defy gravity as well his chances of contracting COVID as he crowd surfed at a Trump rally in Georgia on Friday.

The rally, which was being held in Macon near Atlanta saw Jones, who was not wearing a mask, being passed over the heads of those in the crowd as he gave a thumbs up.

Jones, who has previously decried face coverings and other measures designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, treated the gathered crowd as though they were in the mosh pit at a rock concert.

Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd surfs during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Middle Georgia Regional Airport on Friday in Macon, Georgia

Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones crowd surfs during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Middle Georgia Regional Airport on Friday in Macon, Georgia

Democratic Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones, a supporter of Trumps, surfed the crowd before Trump arrived to participate in his Make America Great Again rally

Democratic Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones, a supporter of Trumps, surfed the crowd before Trump arrived to participate in his Make America Great Again rally

The Representative tweeted this photo of himself as he crowd surfed among those gathered

The Representative tweeted this photo of himself as he crowd surfed among those gathered

Plenty of others in the crowd also decide to forgo wearing any protective coverings over their nose and mouths.

Jones, a Democrat who has endorsed Trump ended up giving a small pep talk before diving into the crowd

Trump supporter Sarah Myers takes a selfie with Rep. Vernon Jones of Georgia during a Trump rally in Macon, Georgia on Friday evening

Trump supporter Sarah Myers takes a selfie with Rep. Vernon Jones of Georgia during a Trump rally in Macon, Georgia on Friday evening

Rep. Vernon Jones tweeted pictures of the crowd and of his antics as he dived in

Rep. Vernon Jones tweeted pictures of the crowd and of his antics as he dived in

President Trump has made repeated appeals for black support, even as his convention repeatedly blasted protesters it linked to the 'socialist left' and 'mob rule' following the death of George Floyd.  

In August, Jones, a Democrat, delivered scathing remarks at his own party at the Republican National Convention, which he accused of exploiting black voters.

'The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave the mental Plantation they've had us on for decades,' he said.

'But I have news for them: We are free people with free minds,' said Jones, at a time when Biden is holding large leads among black voters, but hopes to build a critical advantage over Hillary Clinton's performance, where black turnout dropped off from 2012.

Jones has accused Biden of being 'all talk and no action,' and has said: 'When President Trump sought to earn the Black vote, the Democratic Party leaders went crazy!'

He talked up Trump's support for historically black colleges. 'That’s right. Donald Trump did that.,' he said.

Jones has accused Democrats of having 'turned their backs on our brave police officers' in recent protests.

As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, Jones exonerated himself after facing rape accusations in 2005 when he was De Kalb County Executive in Georgia. The woman stood by her story and the state AG said the charges were dropped because the alleged victim didn't want to go through a trial.

The woman who accused him told investigators that Jones raped her, following an encounter at his home involving her and another woman. The then-29 year old acknowledged telling Jones at the time the encounter was consensual, but did so in order to leave his home. Jones and his lawyer denied the charges and issued statements saying the contact was consensual.

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump yell as he walks on stage at his campaign event

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump yell as he walks on stage at his campaign event

President Donald Trump is pictured speaking at the campaign rally in Macon, Georgia with just 18 days until election day

President Donald Trump is pictured speaking at the campaign rally in Macon, Georgia with just 18 days until election day

In August of this year at the RNC Georgia State Representative (D) Vernon Jones said the Democratic Party 'does not want Black people to leave the mental Plantation they've had us on for decades,' he said

In August of this year at the RNC Georgia State Representative (D) Vernon Jones said the Democratic Party 'does not want Black people to leave the mental Plantation they've had us on for decades,' he said

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Republican senator blasts Trump in leaked phone call

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) speaks during Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse told Nebraska constituents in a telephone town hall meeting that President Donald Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private, and “kisses dictators' butts.”

Sasse, who is running for a second term representing the reliably red state, made the comments in response to a question about why he has been willing to publicly criticize a president of his own party. He also criticized Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said Trump's family has treated the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

The comments were first reported by the Washington Examiner after it obtained an audio recording of the senator's comments, which has been posted on YouTube. Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said the call occurred Wednesday.

Two other Nebraska Republicans, U.S. Rep. Dan Bacon and state GOP executive director Ryan Hamilton, told the Omaha World-Herald that they disagree with Sasse's characterizations of the president.

“Senator Sasse is entitled to his own opinion,” U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, another Nebraska Republican, said in a statement. “I appreciate what President Trump has accomplished for our country and will continue to work with him on efforts which help Nebraska.”

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh declined to comment on Sasse’s comments, the World-Herald said.

Sasse has positioned himself as a conservative willing to criticize Trump, and he is seen as a potential presidential candidate for 2024. His comments Wednesday were in response to a caller who asked about his relationship with the president, adding, “Why do you have to criticize him so much?” Trump carried Nebraska by 25 percentage points in 2016.

The senator said he has worked hard to have a good relationship with Trump and prays for the president regularly “at the breakfast table in our house.” He praised Trump's judicial appointments.

But he said he's had disagreements with Trump that do not involve “mere policy issues,” adding, “I'm not at all apologetic for having fought for my values against his in places where I think his are deficient, not just for a Republican, but for an American.”

Sasse began his list with, “The way he kisses dictators' butts,” and said Trump “hasn't lifted a finger” on behalf of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

“I mean, he and I have a very different foreign policy,” Sasse said. “It isn't just that he fails to lead our allies. It's that we — the United States — regularly sells out our allies under his leadership.”

Sasse said he criticizes Trump for how he treats women and because Trump "spends like a drunken sailor,” saying he criticized Democratic President Barack Obama over spending.

“He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” Sasse said. “At the beginning of the COVID crisis, he refused to treat it seriously. For months, he treated it like a news cycle-by-news cycle PR crisis rather than a multi-year public health challenge, which is what it is.”

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Former White House chief of staff tells friends that Trump 'is the most flawed person' he's ever met

Former White House chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, has told friends that President Donald Trump "is the most flawed person" he's ever known.

"The depths of his dishonesty is just astounding to me. The dishonesty, the transactional nature of every relationship, though it's more pathetic than anything else. He is the most flawed person I have ever met in my life," the retired Marine general has told friends, CNN has learned.
The reporting comes from a new CNN special scheduled to air Sunday night, "The Insiders: A Warning from Former Trump Officials," in which former senior administration officials -- including former national security adviser John Bolton, former Health and Human Services scientist Rick Bright and former Department of Homeland Security general counsel John Mitnick -- explain why they think the President is unfit for office.
Kelly's sentiments about the President's transactional nature and dishonesty have been shared by other former members of the Trump administration who also appear in the special.
    Olivia Troye, a former top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, has said the President knew about the impact the coronavirus pandemic would have on the US by mid-February, but that "he didn't want to hear it, because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year." Miles Taylor, a former DHS chief of staff who now serves as a CNN contributor, has asserted Trump essentially calls individuals within the federal government who disagree with him "deep state."
    Elizabeth Neumann, another former DHS official, had criticized Trump for not condemning White supremacy after the first presidential debate in September.
    "The fact that he continues to not be able to just point-blank say, 'I condemn White supremacy.' It boggles the mind," she told CNN at the time.
    Trump did say on Thursday during a town hall on NBC that he condemned White supremacy. "I denounce White supremacy, OK?," Trump told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. "I've denounced White supremacy for years."
    The President sometimes is successfully cajoled to condemn White supremacists, but often -- such as in the first presidential debate -- seems reluctant do so, perhaps so as to not alienate any potential votes.
    Kelly, who left the White House under contentious circumstances in January 2019, has occasionally voiced criticisms of the Trump administration since leaving his post.
    In June, in the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police and Trump's response to the subsequent protests and calls for racial justice, Kelly said he agreed with former Secretary of Defense Gen. Jim Mattis' stark warning that Trump is "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people." Kelly said he would have cautioned Trump against the idea of using law enforcement to clear Lafayette Square of protesters ahead of the President's now infamous photo op in front of a nearby church.
    Kelly also defended retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for raising concerns about the President's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- the call at the heart of the President's impeachment. And Kelly has said he believes Bolton's allegation that Trump conditioned US security aid to Ukraine on an investigation into political rivals.
    Kelly has said that before he left the White House, he cautioned Trump: "Don't hire a 'yes man,' someone who won't tell you the truth. ... Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached."
    Since Kelly's departure, the White House and the President have maintained that the former general wasn't cut out for his job in the West Wing.
      "When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn't do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head," Trump tweeted in February. "Being Chief of Staff just wasn't for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X's, he misses the action & just can't keep his mouth shut."
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