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Expert's 'clear prediction': Pandemic will last until early 2022

Lawrence Gostin (ABC7)
Lawrence Gostin (ABC7)
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A local global health expert who will help advise the Biden Administration on COVID in the United States, predicts the American death toll will reach 500,000 by mid-February and says the pandemic will last until early 2022.

The new presidential administration pandemic priorities include doubling drive-thru testing sites, delivering more personal protective equipment and invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan. It’s a monumental undertaking laid out in a 198-page document called the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

More than 411,000 American deaths and the toll keeps ticking up. It’s a devastating number Lawrence Gostin projected in October 2020.

“We’re well over 200,000 deaths. It would not surprise me to see that doubled,” he told ABC7 News reporter Victoria Sanchez in an October 27 Zoom interview.

Sanchez caught up with Gostin in a second interview on Thursday afternoon.

“The last time I spoke to you, you said, ‘I think we could reach 400,000 people dead.’ You were right,” she said.

“You know I’ve been right on a lot of things but I’m not proud of it. I said that the pandemic would take two years before we got out of. At the time, people went nuts. They said, ‘How can you say those bad gloomy things?’” Gostin said.

The expertise of the Georgetown Law professor and World Health Organization’s director of the Center on Public Health and Human Rights will help influence the new pandemic approach under President Joe Biden.

"We have to think of the COVID pandemic as, like a world war. You need to fight it domestically and you need to fight it everywhere it is. And so, we can’t ever stop COVID in the United States unless we can stop it everywhere,” he said.

On his first full day in office, President Biden rejoined the WHO in a move that delighted Gostin.

“The symbolism is huge. We’re in the middle of the greatest pandemic in our lifetimes, the World Health Organization is charged with leading it, and now U.S. is back, back in the game,” he said.

The U.S. has the most COVID cases in the world and Gostin is recommending the administration tackle vaccine distribution first.

“This is going to be the greatest vaccine or medical project even in our lifetimes,” he said in the October interview.

Under Trump, Gostin said the rollout was a disaster.

“It’s worse than I thought it was going to be. I mean, it’s become a free-for-all. You know, if you’re in this state or this county you can get your vaccine,” he said.

“Many people have been critical on the distribution of the vaccine. Could it be that we haven’t dealt with this before and that’s why we’re failing at it?” asked Sanchez.

“You know, it’s really odd because we have done it before. We’ve done it in the United States with polio.”

He said in a much-needed change from the previous administration, Biden will increase federal funding and manpower in the National Strategy that will aid overwhelmed states, territories and the District of Columbia.

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“The United States did two things right under Trump: Operation Warp Speed that helped develop the vaccine. Credit where it’s due. And also, that the CDC had really good ethical priorities about who should get it. But we had absolutely no plan for vaccine distribution and getting it into people’s arms.”

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