The U.S. has seen at least 805,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and over 40,000 people have died during the current outbreak, but a second wave in the fall could be even more disastrous, the director of the Centers for Disease Control said.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said that Americans should prepare for the chance that a resurgence in COVID-19 cases will coincide with flu season later this year.
“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he told The Washington Post.
Redfield said that he’s warned others about the possibility of dueling infections, but that they were not responsive.
“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” he said. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”
Redfield’s warning is in line with what other health experts have said. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also cautioned that a second wave could hit this fall.
“There is always the possibility as we get into next fall, and the beginning of early winter, that we could see a rebound,” he told CNN.
Redfield told the Post that the U.S. was lucky to be at the end of the 2019-2020 flu season when the current COVID-19 outbreak began, as “it could have been really, really, really, really difficult in terms of health capacity.”
Before the next flu season begins, governors and state officials need to prepare with a significant increase in testing and contact tracing, where close contacts of confirmed cases are tracked down and told to quarantine so that they do not unknowingly spread the virus, Redfield said.
The virologist also said that social distancing needs to stay in place, even as President Donald Trump and several governors, such as Georgia’s Brian Kemp and Florida’s Ron DeSantis, begin to reopen their states. Redfield said that protests going on around the country urging lawmakers to lift stay-at-home orders are “not helpful,” and that social distancing had an “enormous impact” on reducing the outbreak.
Still, the CDC will soon be issuing guidance on how governors and local governments can safely reopen, he said.
But this summer, Redfield wants Americans to prioritize getting a flu shot to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, the seasonal flu vaccine “may allow there to be a hospital bed available for your mother or grandmother that may get coronavirus,” he said.
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