A second round of Covid-19 cases is “inevitable” come fall, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said, as people increasingly try to resume regular life and more states ease or lift their stay-at-home orders.
“I’m almost certain it will come back, because the virus is so transmissible and it’s globally spread,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci during an Economic Club of Washington webinar earlier this week.
Americans could be in for “a bad fall and a bad winter” if the country is unprepared, said Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Here’s what we know about the possibility of a second wave of the virus and the reasoning behind it.
Why in the fall?
There are many aspects of the virus that remain unknown for scientists but older viruses are offering some clues.
Dr. Greg Poland, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic, said that SARS-CoV-2, the technical name for the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is likely to follow that pattern.
“Often, not always … often the second wave of a pandemic is worse,” Poland said, adding that the coronavirus pandemic spread in the US well into the flu season.
“This thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people,” said Mike Osterholm, the CIDRAP director, in an interview with CNN.
“The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology.”
What can be done about a second wave of infection?
Health experts say the coming months would be a good time to prepare for a potential second outbreak of the virus.
Hospitals and clinics should replenish their stocks of personal protective equipment and testing supplies. People should try to get healthier if possible, continue using face masks for the time being and keep gatherings to no more than 10 people, several experts told CNN.
As cities reopen, local officials should make plans to quickly reissue stay-at-home orders or other strict social distancing measures in the future if needed, Poland said
Health officials across the country must continue focusing on expanding coronavirus testing, contact tracing and treatment, said Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of the geographic medicine and infectious diseases division at Tufts University Medical Center.
“We hope we’ll have more tools in our toolbox, maybe we’ll have some treatments for Covid-19 by then, maybe we’ll have better diagnostics,” Boucher said.
Improving the way health workers handle the coronavirus pandemic will be key, Boucher says, so the country is “as prepared as we can be” when it’s time to face an outbreak of both the coronavirus and the flu.
“We are placing a lot of hope on that but we don’t have answers yet,” Poland said. “This (virus) is only 16 weeks old so there’s a lot we don’t know yet.”
“We have work to do. We are looking for other therapies. This trial is going to continue,” Dr. Andre Kalil, the principal investigation behind the clinical trial, told CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen earlier this week.
Has the virus made a comeback elsewhere?
Singapore had initially been praised for its response and apparent ability to suppress infections in the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic. Then the number of cases exploded in April.
To control the spread, the government has attempted to isolate the dormitories, test workers and move symptomatic patients into quarantine facilities. It’s a daunting task because workers live in cramped conditions that make social distancing near impossible. The government also instituted what it is calling a “circuit breaker,” a package of restrictions and new rules, combined with harsh punishments.