Here’s what a second wave of coronavirus could look like in the U.S., based on what’s happening in South Korea

Similar to the U.S., a holiday weekend may be responsible for a significant increase in reported coronavirus cases in South Korea. 

Even with adjustments for differences in population sizes, 10 times as many coronavirus cases have been reported in the U.S. But South Korea is already taking action against a possible second wave of the coronavirus. Containment strategies, such as banning large gatherings, are already underway in the capital city of Seoul, where a few cases grew to a few hundred following a May holiday. 

Before this second spike appeared, which might have stemmed from the Children’s Day national holiday on May 5, the Korean Centers for Disease Control had said that the country’s first wave of coronavirus never really ended. Now, experts are confidently labeling the two peaks with a significant dip separating them. Voluntary social distancing and a track, trace, and test strategy have been enough to contain the virus and keep the Korean government from forcing a lockdown. 

In Korea, people are socially distancing and wearing masks without their government forcing their hand. This clear contrast to attitudes common in the U.S. may be useful in anticipating what the coming second wave will look like. People across the U.S. are divided over whether wearing masks and social distancing is considerate or if it abridges personal freedoms, and states are reopening for business far ahead of recommendations from public health experts. It’s clear that a second wave of coronavirus will be much harder to contain, if impossible, especially after a big spikes in various states after the Memorial Day holiday weekend. 

Following both the cultural model to facilitate a second wave and the criteria for what that may look like, there are some educated conclusions which can be drawn on the timeline for a second wave of coronavirus in the U.S.

Health experts say the dip in reported cases seen in May in the U.S. is not significant enough to represent a separation between the initial spikes from March and April and the increases being observed in June. This means that a second wave of coronavirus will be the same size or larger, but only after the virus has been almost eradicated. On a graph, this would be a large dip between two plateaus, a gaping canyon in profile. 

Rather, the U.S. is experiencing a chain of smaller waves, as states hardest hit in the beginning of the pandemic are recovering and others, like Texas and Arizona, are just starting to feel the virus’ real effects. 

With cases continuing to rise in a majority of U.S. states, it is unlikely that the nation will enter a true second wave anytime soon. 

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, NBC, Washington Post, Business Insider

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