Are We Already in the Second Wave of Coronavirus?
Experts weigh in on whether or not the spikes states are experiencing are still part of the first wave.
Since early on in the coronavirus pandemic, health officials and infectious disease experts have been warning about subsequent waves of infection. Earlier pandemics, including the 1918 influenza spread, occurred in multiple waves, meaning that the number of cases would fall and then crest again—sometimes to deadlier effect. As many states across the country have lifted lockdown orders, their number of active cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. While these frightening statistics may suggest that we are already in the second wave of coronavirus, experts say that's not quite right.
The truth is, the states in which numbers are spiking did not experience the trough that occurs between actual waves. Speaking to CNBC, Nicholas Reich, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said that only some states, including New York and New Jersey, have already had their first wave surge and are seeing numbers fall in the face of lockdown measures. He continued, "However, many states have had more of a first-wave plateau, without a clear decline for many weeks."
In a June 11 appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box, contributor Scott Gottlieb, MD, addressed the misconception. "It's not a second wave. [Those states] never really got rid of the first wave," he said. "If you look at Texas and Arizona, for example, they really weren't that hard hit relative to other states during February and March. So they just had some infection, they had persistent infection—now we're starting to see it go back up as they reopen."
For example, by late March, New York was already seeing new cases in the thousands daily, while Texas' numbers were still in the hundreds. On June 10, Texas added 2,500 new cases—its highest daily count yet—to its total, while New York, which peaked at 12,312 new cases on April 4, saw 664 cases by comparison.
In late May, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that numbers would potentially spike again during the first wave. "We need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time," said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, per ABC News. "We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now, it is going to keep going down. We may get a second peak in this wave."
Experts are still predicting that a true second wave will appear in the fall or winter. "We should not see a full second wave in the summer, but we may see hot spots all over the country," Mark Jarrett, MD, chief quality officer for Northwell Health, told Newsday earlier this month. Jarrett pointed out that the 1918 influenza pandemic started in March 1918. And while there was a significant drop in cases over the summer, an autumn resurgence of the flu virus claimed even more lives than the initial outbreak. And to look even further into the future, Here's When a Third Wave of Coronavirus Could Hit, Doctors Say.