A “second wave” of coronavirus cases? Not yet, experts say


What is all that talk about a “second wave” of American coronavirus cases?

In The Wall Street Journal last week, Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a piece entitled “There is no corona virus” Second Wave “that the nation wins the fight against the virus.

However, many public health experts suggest it’s not time to celebrate. About 120,000 Americans have died from the new virus, and there are worrying recent increases in reported cases in the south and west.

But there is at least one point of agreement: “Second wave” is probably the wrong term to describe what is happening.

“If you have more than 20,000 infections a day, how can you talk about a second wave?” Says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. “We’re in the first wave. Let’s get out of the first wave first.” you have a second wave. ‘

It was clear that there was a first peak of infection in April when the cases exploded in New York City. After schools and businesses across the country closed, the number of new cases dropped slightly.

But “it’s more of a plateau or a mesa,” not the trough after a wave, said Caitlin Rivers, a disease researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

Scientists generally agree that the nation is still in the first wave of coronavirus infections, although one that is declining in some parts of the country and rising in others.

“This virus spreads in the United States and affects different places with different intensities at different times,” says Dr. Richard Besser, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a pandemic influenza hit the U.S. in 2009.

Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert from the University of Michigan, echoed that sentiment.

“What I call this is forwarded flare broadcast,” he said.

Flu seasons sometimes show a second wave of infections. But in those cases, the second wave is a clear new wave in cases of a flu strain other than the strain that caused previous illnesses.

That is not the case with the coronavirus epidemic.

Monto doesn’t think “second wave” really describes what’s happening right now, and calls it “full semantics.”

“Second waves are actually in the eye of the beholder,” he said.

But Besser said semantics are important because saying that a first wave is over can give people a false sense that the worst is over.

Some are concerned that a major wave of coronavirus may occur this fall or winter – after schools reopen, the weather turns colder and less humid, and people creep in more. That would follow seasonal patterns seen in flu and other respiratory viruses. And such a fall wave can be very bad, since there is no vaccine or experts think most Americans haven’t had the virus.

But the new coronavirus has spread more episodically and sporadically than flu so far, and it may not follow the same playbook.

“It is very difficult to make a prediction,” said Rivers. “We don’t know if this virus is seasonal or not at all.”


AP medical writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.


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