As Americans continue to try and manage life while fighting off the coronavirus, one question is on a lot of people’s minds: Are we already seeing, or will we eventually see, a second wave of the virus?
Most public health experts have said they anticipate a big uptick to happen this fall and winter. The White House has admitted it’s preparing for the possibility. However, part of that prediction was based on the assumption that the virus would slow down over the summer, and that doesn’t appear to be happening.
Much of the attention aimed at fall has now shifted to concern over the possibility of two potentially lethal viruses circulating at the same time — COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, the latter of which kills around 40,000 people in the US per year. Because of certain overlapping symptoms such as fever and a cough, it may be hard for individuals and doctors to immediately determine which infection you have.
Experts say there’s no official definition of when a “wave” begins or ends but, generally speaking, it pretty much acts like a wave: There’s a spike and then it goes down. A new rise and peak of positive cases would signal the start of another wave.
“It is probably not realistic for the number of new cases to drop to zero, but ideally one would like to see sustained decreases in the number of new cases over time or stability in the number of new cases over time,” said Nicole Gatto, an associate professor in the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University in California.
Disease expert Dr. Fauci has a more definitive answer.
“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this [pandemic],” Fauci said during a July 6 interview on Facebook Live. “And I would say, this [recent uptick in cases] would not be considered a wave. It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections.”
The first wave will end when the rate of positive coronavirus tests drops to “the low single digits,” Fauci said in June. Instead, new cases declined modestly, then plateaued through most of May before starting to spike again in late June, never quite getting low enough. Basically, you can’t have a second wave until cases and deaths from the first wave drop close to zero for a sustained period of time. If cases spike again after that point, that’s a bona fide second wave.
One bright side is that the number of deaths hasn’t gone up as the number of cases have.
South Korean officials, for example, have declared the country is experiencing a second wave as case numbers have begun to surge again after about two months of single-digit infection rates. However, while the World Health Organization has acknowledged the seriousness of these new clusters of cases, the WHO has stopped short of calling it a “second wave.”
As state reopenings take place across the country, more than 20 states are reporting steady increases in new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. On June 30, U.S. officials broke another record by