Coronavirus U.S. Second Wave — How Bad Will It Be?



Ambulances lined up at the emergency entrance outside Mount Sinai Hospital during the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, April 13, 2020 (Mike Segar/Reuters)

A couple people disagree with the assessment below that “we are likely through the worst” of the coronavirus outbreak. They point to warnings about the inevitable second wave, and point out that the second wave of the 1918 influenza outbreak was much worse than the first one.

True enough, although our society has changed a lot in the past hundred years — our medical knowledge and understanding of viruses, our ability to treat patients, and our ability to communicate needed medical information.

Maybe I’m being uncharacteristically optimistic, but I think the second wave just won’t have the rapid spread and as high a number of deaths as the past few months. When SARS-CoV-2 hit the United States in late January/February/early March, the vast majority of Americans were not taking any precautions at all. Never mind the president’s comments, never mind New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments. Almost no one took this all that seriously. Think about Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert touching all the microphones. Americans gathered in big crowds for everything from Chinese New Year’s parades to sporting events to concerts to conventions. The only widespread wearing of masks was among Chinese Americans, and depicting that in news photos was allegedly racist.

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We were about as unprepared — psychologically and in our behavior — as we could get. We needed to be re-taught, or reminded, to wash our hands frequently.

Most people won’t lose their current good habits of frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowds during the summer. Our treatments will be improved, and our doctors and medical personnel have hard-earned experience in beating this virus and saving patients now. Those who have caught the virus and recovered will not be getting it again, at least not for a while. All of these factors should mitigate the harm from the second wave.

A second wave could be bad, but I doubt it will be as bad as what happened when the virus hit oblivious America from January 1 to March 12 or so.


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