Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, told The Washington Post there could be a second coronavirus wave in the winter during flu season, creating a larger health crisis than the one we are experiencing now.
“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,” Redfield told the publication Tuesday. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”
Some may underplay the effect of a flu epidemic as for many flu strains there are working vaccines and treatments. According to the CDC’s estimates regarding the 2019-2020 US flu season (October 1, 2019 to April 4, 2020), there were:
- 39,000,000-56,000,000 flu illnesses
- 18,000,000-26,000,000 flu medical visits
- 410,000-740,000 flu hospitalizations
- 24,000-62,000 flu deaths
For the novel coronavirus, however, no treatment or vaccine has been found yet, making it deadly.
Redfield’s warning has many concerns, especially as governors consider reopening their states’ economies and easing restrictions originally placed to stop the spread of the virus.
White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx commented on Redfield’s prediction during Tuesday’s news briefing. “I don’t know if [the second outbreak] will be worse, I think this has been pretty bad. When you see what happened in New York, that was very bad.”
Brix continued, “I believe that we’ll have early warning signals both from our surveillance that we’ve been talking about in these vulnerable populations. We’re going to continue that surveillance from now all the way through to be able to give us that early warning signal.”
The US isn’t the only country predicted to face a second coronavirus outbreak — some countries are already experiencing their next wave. Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture, which had the highest number of coronavirus cases when the pandemic swept through Asia, is seeing a surge in cases. Government officials have now declared a state of emergency less than a month after lifting a similar order.
Before the new order, Hokkaido began reopening schools and allowing planned public gatherings. With the new order, residents are being asked to stay home and only leave for essential trips, and schools are being closed until May 6. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a state of emergency for other prefectures just a week before as they also see an uptick in new cases.
Second Coronavirus Wave — Sources
CDC — 2019-2020 US Flu Season: Preliminary Burden Estimates
CNN — CDC chief says there could be second, possibly worse coronavirus outbreak this winter
NPR — Emergency Declared in Japanese Prefecture Hit By 2nd Wave of Coronavirus Infections