The CDC Is "Highly Concerned" About COVID-19 in the Fall. Here's Why
Health experts are worried about what will happen when flu season hits.
Many states started lifting lockdown orders in May, as the coronavirus appeared to be falling from its April peak. However, in the last week, coronavirus case numbers have surged across the country, with states including California and South Carolina hitting new daily records. Due to this recent activity and the resurgence of another illness, Robert Redfield, MD, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says his department is worried about what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like in a few months if it is not contained soon.
"I'm highly concerned about the complexity we will be facing in the fall when we have coronavirus and influenza," Redfield said during a news briefing on June 25.
Flu season, which starts in October, takes a toll on the U.S. health system every year. The CDC estimates that, over the last 10 years, the United States has seen around 475,000 hospitalizations and 36,500 deaths annually, due to the flu. However, if hospital beds are still being used for COVID-19 patients when the season starts, health experts worry that there will not be enough space for both influenza patients and coronavirus patients seeking medical care—which would likely cause the death rate to rise.
And seeing as the end of this year is the earliest some health experts expect a coronavirus vaccine (with many warning that we won't have one until at least 2021), the chances of the flu and the coronavirus spreading simultaneously is pretty high. The CDC says that "getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever" this year, as it is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously.
"If there is COVID-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety," Redfield wrote in his testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on June 23.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also expressed his concerns about the coming months at the hearing. He said that if the United States doesn't get control of the coronavirus by the fall, we're "essentially chasing after a forest fire."
And according to both Redfield and Fauci, it is younger people fueling the new coronavirus surge—not the elderly or immunocompromised, who are still considered high-risk. Fauci says many younger Americans, who typically have mild coronavirus cases, have a "lack of appreciation" for the "dual responsibility" they have in keeping themselves safe so they can keep others safe.
"What you can't forget is that, if you get infected and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak," Fauci said. "So it's a very difficult messaging when people say, 'I'm young, I'm healthy, who cares?' You should care not only for yourself, but for the impact you might have on the dynamics of the outbreak." And for more recent comments, check out Fauci Still Confident States With Spiking Cases Won't Need Second Lockdown.