Are the pandemic’s darkest days ahead? We get a second opinion.

A nurse and a man sit at a desk in a medical setting.
Nurse Heidi Beckmann asks veteran Tony Chouanard of St. Martin a few questions before administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shot Feb. 17, 2021, at the VA Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minn.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

We stand at an uncertain moment in the pandemic. Vaccinations are plugging along. Infections and deaths are plummeting from their stratospheric winter peaks. But at the same time, new, more contagious viral variants have come to our shores. Minnesota’s best-known epidemiologist told MPR News last week that he fears the variants will send case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocketing again.  

“What we're seeing is basically the lull before the storm,” said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who served as a COVID-19 advisor to Joe Biden during the presidential transition. He predicted the darkest days of the pandemic are coming.

But not everyone agrees the outlook is so dire. Wednesday, MPR News Host Kerri Miller got a second opinion on the pandemic from two medical professionals closely watching the disease.


  • Dr. James Hamblin is a preventive care physician, a staff writer at The Atlantic and a lecturer at Yale School of Public Health.

  • Ellie Murray is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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