Ever since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in mid-March, medical experts have been warning of an imminent second wave. Now, with cases on the rise in 40 states across the United States amid cooler weather, many are wondering if the second wave is already here.
If nothing else, data compiled by the Washington Post is certainly a cause for alarm. By Oct. 10, more than 20 states hit new record high case counts in a seven-day average. And three days later, more than half of those states reported even higher record cases. In that same timeframe, 40 states reported cases that were overall higher than the week before.
An even more troubling trend is that Midwestern states are now being hit especially hard by COVID-19 after being largely spared during the spring and summer months—when the virus was ravaging the East and West Coasts as well as urban areas. By mid-October, Indiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota were among the states that saw new record highs for a seven-day span.
“That’s of particular concern because a lot of these smaller regions don’t have the ICU beds and capacity that the urban centers had,” Harvard University infectious diseases researcher William Hanage told the Post.
“I hope these numbers … jolt the American public into the realization that we really cannot let this happen,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Monday. “Because it’s on a trajectory of getting worse and worse. And that’s the worst possible thing that can happen as we get into the cooler months.”
Possible reasons for the second wave of infections
There are a number of factors why we’re now seeing spikes in cases and why this trend may continue into the holiday season.
Lower humidity and lower temperatures cause drier conditions in which the virus best thrives. These conditions have also been exacerbated by schools and businesses reopening and cooler weather shifting outdoor gatherings to indoors. Warmer weather during the summer had allowed for relaxed attitudes for social distancing. However, fatigue may quickly set back in, particularly as people may be tempted to gather for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years in the coming months.
There are also major concerns of a potential “twindemic” over the winter, as flu season, along with other respiratory illnesses, overlaps with the ongoing pandemic. This year, more than ever, it’s extremely important to get a flu shot.
Misinformation campaigns spread by elected leaders, along with a lack of a coordinated national plan, also pose an enormous risk due to people simply not taking the virus seriously—even after President Donald Trump and many others tested positive for the virus following a Rose Garden superspreader event.
Trump has continued to hold campaign rallies where most attendees are seen neglecting to wear masks. CNN spoke to one Trump supporter at a Sanford, Florida rally on Monday who admitted that she would wear a mask if the president simply asked her to.
“My biggest concern is around the continued vigilance that prevention requires—the distancing, masking, avoidance of crowded indoor areas, etc., [is that] the fatigue factor sets in,” warned George Mason University epidemiologist Saskia Popescu. “Political leaders pushing that we’ve controlled the outbreak encourages people to relax their prevention efforts”