A dreaded second wave of infections

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BANGKOK – As Europe and the United States relax their protective measures against the coronavirus, health experts are expressing growing fear at what they say is a second wave of deaths and infections, but certain, which could force governments to crack down.

“We risk a setback that will be intolerable,” said Dr. Ian Lipkin of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University.

Elsewhere in the world, German authorities have started to make plans for a resurgence of the virus. Italian experts called for intensified efforts to identify new victims and find their contacts. And France, which has not yet relaxed its locking, has already drawn up a “refocusing plan” in the event of a new wave.

“There will be a second wave, but the problem is to what extent. Is it a small wave or a big wave? It is too early to tell, “said Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus unit at the Institut Pasteur de France.

In the United States, with about half of the states relaxing their closings to restart their economies and cell phone data showing that people are getting restless and leaving their homes more and more, public health officials are concerned.

Many states have not put in place the robust tests that experts believe are necessary to detect and contain new outbreaks. And many governors have advanced before their states hit one of the main benchmarks for the reopening of the Trump administration – a 14-day downward trajectory for new diseases and infections.

“If we relax these measures without putting in place the appropriate public health guarantees, we can expect many more cases and, unfortunately, more deaths,” said Josh Michaud, deputy director of global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

Cases have continued to increase steadily in places like Iowa and Missouri since the reopening of the governors, while new infections have caused the yo-yo in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.

Lipkin said he was most concerned about two things: the reopening of bars, where people congregate and lose their inhibitions, and large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and plays. Preventing epidemics will require aggressive contact tracing fueled by armies of public health workers made up of hundreds of thousands of people, which the United States does not yet have, Lipkin said.

Globally, the virus has infected more than 3.6 million people and killed more than a quarter of a million people, according to a Johns Hopkins University count that experts recognize the dimensions of the disaster because of limited tests, differences in the death count and concealment by some governments.

The United States has recorded more than 70,000 deaths and 1.2 million confirmed infections, while Europe has reported more than 140,000 deaths.

This week, researchers behind a widely cited model from the University of Washington almost doubled their projected death in the United States to around 134,000 until early August, largely due to the loosening of restrictions imposed by the ‘State at home stay. In the United States, newly confirmed infections per day exceed 20,000 and deaths per day greatly exceed 1,000.

In hard-hit New York City that has managed to drop deaths dramatically as confirmed infections continue to rise in the rest of the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned that some states may reopen too quickly .

“My message to the rest of the country is to learn how much effort, how much discipline it took to finally reduce these numbers and follow the same path until you are sure it is being pushed back,” a- he said on CNN, “or else if this thing boomerangs, you delay much longer any type of reboot or recovery. “

A century ago, the second wave of the Spanish flu epidemic was much more deadly than the first, in part because authorities authorized mass rallies from Philadelphia to San Francisco.

“It is clear to me that we are at a critical time in this fight. We risk complacency and accept the preventable deaths of 2,000 Americans every day, “said Johns Hopkins professor epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told a House subcommittee in Washington.

President Donald Trump, who has done his best to relax restrictions that have dampened the economy and put more than 30 million Americans out of work, pulled out on Wednesday of White House plans revealed a day earlier to end the coronavirus working group.

He tweeted that the task force would continue to meet indefinitely with a “focus on SECURITY AND OPENING OUR COUNTRY AGAIN”.

Highlighting these economic concerns, the European Union predicted the worst recession in its quarter century. And the U.S. unemployment rate for April, which hits Friday, is expected to hit a staggering 16%, the level last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Governors continue to face requests, and even prosecutions, for reopening. In Michigan, where gunmen entered Capitol Hill last week, the Republican-led Legislative Assembly sued Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, asking a judge to rule out his stay at home order, which runs to less until May 15.

In hard-hit Italy, which has started to relax restrictions, Dr. Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Higher Institute of Health, called for “a huge investment” of resources to train medical personnel to monitor possible new cases of the virus, which has killed an estimated 30,000 people nationwide.

He said contact tracing applications – which are built by dozens of countries and businesses – are not enough to handle future waves of infection.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting the country’s 16 governors that restaurants and other businesses will be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks, but that regional authorities will need to develop a “concept of restriction” for any county that reports 50 new cases per 100,000 people in a week.

Britain, with more than 30,000 dead, the second largest death rate in the world behind the United States, plans to extend its lockout, but has begun recruiting 18,000 people to trace contacts of those infected.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday presented a plan to further loosen its lockdown rules, under which the country will reopen bars, retail stores and hair salons starting next week and allow domestic travel again.

In other developments, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that nearly 5,000 coronavirus diseases and at least 88 deaths have been reported among inmates of American and American prisons. Another 2,800 cases and 15 deaths were reported among guards and other staff.

A 57-year-old immigration detainee at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego died on Wednesday of complications from the coronavirus, authorities said, marking the first reported death from the virus among approximately 30,000 detainees in the United States. Otay Mesa has been a hotbed for the spread of the coronavirus.

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Johnson reported from Seattle. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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