Third wave of coronavirus infections in the United States? More like a “forest fire”, says epidemiologist

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“I see it more as an elongated exacerbation of the initial first wave,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday at an annual event for Yahoo Finance. “It’s kind of semantics. You want to call it the third wave or an extended first wave, no matter how you look at it, that’s not good news. “

Fauci and other experts are particularly concerned that the recent surge in cases is starting from a higher baseline of around 40,000 cases per day, compared to 20,000 cases per day during the summer surge.

“Each wave we start from a higher baseline and we start to climb,” said Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, noting that during the summer infections increased the most. in the south and southwest. “This time it’s all over the country and we’re heading into winter, where the virus becomes more efficient at spreading. “

Still, Jha said terminology is not as important as Americans understanding that the growth of new cases can quickly become exponential.

“The metaphor of a wildfire is probably better,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “There is no question that the United States is now seeing fairly widespread transmission in all areas. “

Unlike a wave that comes and goes, wildfires can be patchy and more intense in some areas, like the situation in the United States, Hanage said. Community-based mitigation efforts such as masking and social distancing can stem the spread, but infections then tend to appear in other areas with more flexible measures.

Tara Smith, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Kent State University in Ohio, isn’t a fan of wave terminology. “It implies that there is a trough, and our cases have never really declined significantly,” she said.

Small gatherings now play a larger role in the transmission of transmission, Smith said, and may be linked to fatigue from a pandemic approaching its eighth month.

“Everyone wants to feel a little normal, even for a night out,” she said.

As the US heads into the winter vacation months, doubling down on basic public health measures, especially wearing a mask and avoiding crowds and close contact, is even more crucial. in closed spaces with poor ventilation, according to experts.

“When you face the first full winter of the worst pandemic we’ve seen in a century, the capacity for chaos is there and is real,” Hanage said. “The virus loves chaos. “

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