Will there be a second wave of COVID-19 in the United States?
Yes. Health experts believe that there will be a second wave, or surge of coronavirus cases, in the United States this fall and winter. This prediction was made based on patterns seen in other countries and knowledge from similar situations in the past. During the 1918 and 2009 H1N1 flu epidemics, there were some infections in the spring followed by a surge in the fall.
According to projections created by healthdata.org, it is expected that the U.S. can reach an infection rate of 350,000 people/day and a death rate of about 3,000 people/day by December. If we wear masks and implement social distancing measures throughout the fall and winter we will be able to cut down on these numbers and save close to 100,000 lives by the end of the year.
See our article for projections with the latest updates on the predicted peak and end dates of coronavirus in the United States.
Projections in daily deaths. Source: https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america?view=daily-deaths&tab=trend
What will cause a second wave of coronavirus?
There are several factors that contribute to the likelihood of a second coronavirus wave in the U.S.
- Many respiratory viruses, such as the flu, spread more rapidly in colder weather. While there is no current evidence that this is the case for COVID-19, it is possible that cold weather could increase the spread of coronavirus this winter since it is a respiratory illness.
- The spread of other diseases this winter can make the second wave of coronavirus worse. As the flu spreads this winter, we risk overwhelming our healthcare system and dealing with limited resources again. In addition, many children are not up to date on their measles and pertussis vaccines, which may circulate among children this season as well.
- Reopening of schools, businesses, and relaxing social distancing measures contribute to the spread of COVID-19. When people go into public spaces without face coverings and come into close contact, they increase their risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus. With increased mask-wearing and avoiding large crowds, the spread of COVID-19 this winter can be mitigated.
Is the first wave of coronavirus over in the United States?
The United States reached its peak daily death rate on April 14th, 2020, and peak hospital resource use on April 19th, 2020. However, surges of COVID-19 have been occurring across the U.S.
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This is largely due to behavioral choices and desire to reopen society at a fast pace. Viruses spread at a rapid rate when individuals gather in large groups without masks. Below is a graphic from the CDC website that depicts recent coronavirus case numbers during early September.
Current COVID-19 Cases. Source: cdc.gov/coronavirus
Will the second wave be worse than the first wave?
Infectious disease experts from Johns Hopkins University explain that the spread of coronavirus is worsened by the fact that asymptomatic individuals can unknowingly spread the virus to others. In addition, the prevalence of other illnesses, such as the flu, this fall and winter could make the second wave worse than the first. For more information on the 2020-2021 flu season, see our article: When Will The Flu Peak In The United States? Data For 2020-2021.
Doctors, however, are better equipped to face a rise in COVID-19 cases than they were in March since we now know more about the virus and possible treatments. Extensive COVID-19 testing is also essential to preventing the spread and mitigating the severity of the second wave. Other resources such as contact tracing help to stop the transmission of the virus. It's also believed that once herd immunity is met, cases will decrease.
Who are the highest-risk individuals for COVID-19?
Although COVID-19 affects everyone differently, there are some people who are at higher risk for complications and severe illness. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), people with the following illnesses are at the highest risk: cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, immunocompromised state from an organ transplant, obesity, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
In addition, individuals with the following illnesses may be at elevated risk: liver disease, cystic fibrosis, asthma, dementia, and pulmonary fibrosis. Those who smoke or are pregnant may also be at elevated risk. If you are concerned about your risk, call your doctor for more information about your risk and ways to protect yourself.
Even if you do not have any underlying conditions, it is still important to take precautions. There are many reported cases of healthy individuals experiencing long term side-effects after contracting COVID-19. If you get sick this season, it is important to determine whether you have the flu, a cold, or coronavirus to figure out the best course of action and treatment.
How can we prevent a second wave?
However, the severity of the second wave is in our hands. If we avoid large crowds, wear masks, and stay home when we are feeling sick, we can lower our chances of increasing the transmission of the virus and avoid overwhelming the hospitals. Until a vaccine is widely available, measures will need to be taken to mitigate the spread of the virus. Here are some specific actions that we can take to prevent a second wave of coronavirus:
- Public health officials are urging everyone to make sure that your children are up to date on their vaccines and that everyone in your family has gotten the flu shot this season. Getting vaccinated prevents your chance of getting sick from another illness, which can lead to complications if contacted at the same time as coronavirus.
- Wear a mask when you are inside, in large groups, or unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others. It may be possible to get coronavirus twice; therefore, it is important to continue safe practices even if you have already had COVID-19.
- Maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from others when possible. Practice good sanitation such as frequent hand washing and sanitation.