Few doubt that there will be a second wave of the coronavirus, and now fall is seen as the likely time when the second wave will emerge. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S., said a second wave of the coronavirus is “inevitable” in the fall. The warning comes as several states start cautiously opening their economies back up.
Why is fall the likely timeline for second wave of coronavirus?
CNN reports that older coronaviruses provide some insight into how COVID-19 may behave. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified four coronaviruses that typically plague the population. Dr. Greg Poland of the Mayo Clinic expects COVID-19 to follow the same pattern as those four viruses.
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If the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 plays out as expected, fall would be the likely timeline for the second wave. That would mean that COVID-19 would arrive again just as flu season is beginning. The flu has been a problem for many years. The CDC estimates that during the 2019-2020 flu season, there were at least 39 million cases of it and at least 24,000 deaths from it.
The problem with a second wave of the coronavirus occurring in the fall is that it will create confusion because doctors won't know whether patients are infected with the flu or with COVID-19. The two illnesses share many of the same symptoms, so patients will have to be tested for both viruses to find out which one they are infected with.
COVID-19 wouldn't be the first pandemic to return with a major second wave. The U.S. saw a second wave of H1N1, also known as swine flu, in 2009. The first wave occurred in the spring, and the second wave occurred in the fall and winter, according to the CDC.
How bad will the second wave be?
The severity of the second wave has been up for debate. On one hand, the world should be more prepared for the second wave, but on the other, history has shown that sometimes the second wave of a pandemic can be even worse than the first.
Poland said that often, but not always, the second wave is worse than the first. The Spanish flu in 1918 brought a spring wave that was less severe than the second wave that hit in September. About 50 million people around the globe and 675,000 Americans died of the flu.
Experts believe the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will keep spreading for at least 18 more months. There are a few different scenarios for the course of the pandemic. The worst-case scenario for the coronavirus resembles the 1918 flu when the second wave that hit in the fall was worse than the first wave.
The University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy told CNN that COVID-19 won't stop "until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people." He said the concept that the virus will be over soon "defies microbiology." The organization released a study recently that said the COVID-19 could even last two years.
What can be done about it?
If there is a pause between COVID-19 waves over the summer, experts say states should prepare for the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall. They said medical facilities should replenish their supplies of testing kits and protective equipment. The general public should keep using face masks and limit gatherings to no more than 10 people, experts told CNN.
They also said officials should be prepared to issue new stay-at-home orders or other social distancing measures quickly in the event of a second wave. Health officials should expand COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and treatment.