Here's When the Second Wave of Coronavirus Is Coming, Doctors Warn

The recent good news may be short lived, according to medical experts.

After months of stay at home orders in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve, there's finally a little good news coming in. The number of reported new COVID-19 cases in former hot spots around the country is going down. And that cautious optimism has even allowed certain states to begin the early phases of reopening. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ends, as medical experts believe that a lack of social distancing, refusal to wear face masks, and the flouting of other precautions amid reopening could erase any progress in a matter of months. As a result, according to doctors, a second wave of the coronavirus could come as soon as September.

Many experts—including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, MD—say that fall or early winter will likely see the first resurgence in COVID-19 infections across the country. "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. He added that this spike in cases would especially affect areas where people ignore Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to wear masks and practice social distancing, or where restrictions have been loosened too much.

Jarrett also warned that "super-spreader events" such as large summertime parties and other gatherings are especially high risk for transmission of the coronavirus. "If you get a couple of people spreading it to 500 people, those 500 people now spread it to 1,000 people, and it keeps escalating," he said.

Jarrett also pointed to history as an example of how things may unfold by comparing the current COVID-19 pandemic to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Using figures from the CDC, it's been established that after starting in March 1918, there was a significant drop in cases over the summer before an autumn resurgence of the flu virus claimed even more lives than the initial outbreak. Given the highly contagious nature of the novel coronavirus, today's medical experts share concern that history could easily repeat itself in this way.

Others add that summertime habits may be to thank for these dropping numbers that are lulling us into a false sense of security. "People are in less-ventilated spaces [in the fall and winter], so there's a higher chance of you being exposed to aerosols that contain the virus," Bettina Fries, MD, chief of the infectious disease division at Stony Brook Medicine, told Newsday.

But since COVID-19 was only discovered in humans five months ago, scientists say that mapping the virus's trajectory could be even trickier than anyone anticipates. For now, medical experts recommend following all CDC guidelines and resisting the temptation to break social distancing rules too early. It also means wearing your face mask, diligently washing your hands, and avoiding large gatherings. And for more information on how coronavirus spreads, check out how 80 Percent of Coronavirus Cases Can Be Traced Back to This One Thing.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more