A Second Wave of COVID Is "Inevitable" in This Safe State, Experts Say

This state may have curbed coronavirus for now, but it's likely the disease will surge again.

Compared to where the coronavirus was spreading fastest in the U.S. in March, the landscape of transmission has completely changed. While states in the Midwest are now being ravaged by COVID-19, their numbers were relatively low in the spring. And one of the first hard-hit states that has since been lauded as a "success story" for flattening the curve may be at risk of becoming a hotspot once again. Experts are warning that New York is at risk of a second wave of coronavirus.

"I think it would be foolish of us to not plan for an inevitable second wave," Oxiris Barbot, MD, New York City's former health commissioner recently told The New York Times.

New York was once the epicenter of the pandemic. The state marked a daily new case record of 12,274 on Apr. 4 and has racked up over 430,000 cases and 32,424 deaths so far. But New York has seen its daily new case numbers fall, and the state currently has a one percent positive test rate, according to Covid Act Now.

Anthony Fauci, MD, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff in late July that New York was an example of how other states could curb coronavirus too. "We know that, when you do it properly, you bring down those cases," Fauci said. "We have done it. We have done it in New York. New York got hit worse than any place in the world. And they did it correctly by doing the things that you're talking about."

empire state building standing tall amongst skyscrapers in New York City

A swift and strict shutdown—as well as enforced mask measures and social distancing guidelines—may have helped lower the infection rate, but that doesn't mean that New York is out of the woods for good.

"People in New York have taken matters much more seriously than in other places," Howard Markel, MD, PhD, a historian of epidemics at the University of Michigan, told The Times. "And all they're doing is reducing the risk. They're not extinguishing the virus."

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Officials are worried that a resurgence could occur for a variety of reasons. Citizens could get complacent with the health rules and feel a false sense of safety in congregating at bars, beaches, or other public gathering places, and travelers could be entering the state without adhering to the 14-day quarantine mandate that's in place for several hard-hit areas. Additionally, the fall flu season, schools reopening, and cold weather pushing people indoors could exacerbate conditions.

"Our progress in New York is even better than we expected, thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Aug. 4. "We cannot go back to the hell we experienced just a few months ago—and surging infection rates across the country threaten to bring us back there—so we must all remain vigilant." And for more places that could close again, check out This State Is on the Verge of Going Back Into Lockdown, Governor Warns.

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