Michael Osterholm has spent the past year as afraid of getting Covid as anyone else. “You know how many times I’ve woken up in the morning and said, I wonder if today’s the day I could get infected?” One of the world’s leading epidemiologists, he is reassured by the fact that he doesn’t go anywhere—“I’m the guy who has the same tank of gas in his car that he had three months ago”—but he, too, is desperate to be done with the pandemic.
“I miss my grandkids,” he told Intelligencer from his Minneapolis-area home, his assured voice turning wistful. “My God, I miss my grandkids.”
Osterholm, 67, is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and has spent the past four decades studying epidemics, but he became nationally famous a year ago for his stark predictions during the first shocking wave of the pandemic in the U.S.
“In April, I said, ‘These are just the foothills. We haven’t even gotten to the mountains yet—and there are big ones coming,’” he recalls. “People, of course, dismissed that as just hyperbole and just scary. Well, you saw what happened.”
His hair-raising, accurate prediction made him something of a Dr. Doom whose expertise was sought after by everyone from CNN to Joe Rogan. Last fall he earned a spot as an adviser for the Biden transition team, where he controversially floated the potential need for a nationwide lockdown.