The coronavirus pandemic may have slowed down in many parts of the country due to social distancing efforts, but don’t plan your parties, vacations or office trips yet. Experts say the virus will not be a thing of the past anytime soon.
Second series of COVID-19 cases “inevitable” in fall, says country’s top infectious disease doctor as more and more people try to get back to normal lives and more states relax or lift their home stay orders.
“I am almost certain it will come back because the virus is so transmissible and it is spreading worldwide,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci at an Economic Club of Washington webinar earlier this week.
Americans could face “a bad fall and a bad winter” if the country is not prepared, said Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Here is what we know about the possibility of a second wave of virus and the reasoning behind it.
Why in the fall?
Many aspects of the virus remain unknown to scientists, but older viruses offer clues.
People are generally infected with four common coronaviruses that were first identified in the mid-1960s, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And these tend to peak during the winter months.
Dr. Greg Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic, said that SARS-CoV-2, the technical name for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, would likely follow this pattern.
If this happens, a second wave of the virus would return just in time for the start of the flu season. The flu has been a constant threat to Americans and devastating in recent years. The CDC estimates that there have been at least 39 million cases of influenza in the United States and at least 24,000 deaths in the 2019-20 season.
Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic vaccine research group, says combining a second wave of COVID-19 with flu season could create “a lot of confusion” due to their overlapping symptoms and put heavy pressure on the health system.
It would not be the first pandemic to come back in force. In 2009, the United States experienced a wave of H1N1 flu, known as swine flu, in the spring. Months later, a second wave was reported in the fall and winter, according to the CDC.
“Often, not always … often the second wave of a pandemic is worse,” said Poland, adding that the coronavirus pandemic spread to the United States during the flu season.
Another example is the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people worldwide and approximately 675,000 Americans. At the time, there was a first mild spring wave in the United States, but a second deadly wave hit the country in September.
It appears that the new coronavirus is likely to continue to spread for at least 18 months. There are several possible scenarios for the evolution of the pandemic, but the worst of them is a second wave of infections, just like the influenza pandemic of 1918, according to a report by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of l ‘University of Minnesota.
“This thing will not stop until it infects 60-70% of people,” said Mike Osterholm, director of CIDRAP, in an interview with CNN.
“The idea that this will happen soon defies microbiology. “
Osterholm co-authored a CIDRAP report released Thursday recommending that the United States prepare for the worst-case scenario, which includes a second great wave of coronavirus infections in the fall and winter.
What can you do against a second wave of infection?
Health experts say the coming months would be a good time to prepare for a possible second virus outbreak.
Hospitals and clinics should replenish their supplies of personal protective equipment and test supplies. People should try to be as healthy as possible, continue to use masks for the time being, and limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people, several experts told CNN.
As cities reopen, local authorities should plan to quickly reissue home stay orders or other strict social distancing measures if necessary, said Poland.
Health officials across the country must continue to focus on expanding coronavirus testing, contact tracing and treatment, said Dr. Helen Boucher, head of the geographic medicine and infectious disease at Tufts University Medical Center.
“We hope we have more tools in our toolbox, maybe we will have treatments for COVID-19 by then, maybe we will have better diagnoses,” said Boucher.
The Trump administration has estimated that a vaccine is in 12 to 18 months, although some leaders on the ground say the schedule may be too quick.
Improving the way health workers manage the coronavirus pandemic will be essential, says Boucher, so the country is “as prepared as possible” when it is time to deal with a coronavirus and flu epidemic. .
While most experts believe that people who have recovered from the virus will benefit from some sort of immunity, Poland says it is unclear how strong this immunity could be, how long it could duration and the accuracy of antibody tests is inconsistent.
“We have a lot of hope on this, but we don’t have an answer yet,” said Poland. “This (virus) is only 16 weeks old, so there are a lot of things we don’t know yet. “
Remdesivir, an investigational antiviral drug, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration on Friday to treat COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in serious condition.
The drug, which is the first authorized treatment for COVID-19, far from being a cure, government-funded study finds, but patients who have taken it have recovered faster than those who have not.
“We have work to do. We are looking for other therapies. This trial will continue, “said Dr. Andre Kalil, the lead investigator behind the clinical trial, to CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen earlier this week.
Has the virus returned elsewhere?
In recent weeks, Singapore has experienced a dramatic increase in coronavirus infections, with thousands of new cluster-related cases in the dormitories of foreign workers.
Singapore was initially praised for its response and its apparent ability to suppress infections during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic. Then the number of cases exploded in April.
Since March 17, the total number of cases in Singapore has risen from 266 to more than 17,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
To control the spread, the government has attempted to isolate dormitories, test workers and move symptomatic patients to quarantine facilities. It is a daunting task because workers live in cramped conditions that make social distance almost impossible. The government has also instituted what it calls a “circuit breaker,” a set of restrictions and new rules, coupled with harsh sanctions.
The semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, China, experienced a relatively small number of cases when it peaked after easing restrictions in March. Many cases were imported from overseas while Hong Kong residents who had left – either to work or study abroad, or to seek refuge when the city appeared destined for a major epidemic earlier this year – came back, bringing the virus with them.