First wave, second wave, or one big tsunami. The COVID-19 wave being confronted here and now is neither definitive nor conclusive. But what is certain is that it is still raging.
The issue about a second wave — what constitutes it, or if there really are even virus waves — has been a contentious one. However, virologists, epidemiologists, and other experts all agree on the resurgence of the novel coronavirus as seen in localized spikes in infection in some countries or in the still-accelerating outbreak in others.
In a pandemic, the response shouldn’t be tied with questions about waves or how to refer to any rise in cases. To Keith Neal, emeritus professor in the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, it is the public health management of the increase that takes precedence.
A resurgence of COVID-19 is expected. Thus, containment efforts must not stop: Ways and solutions to protect the population, patients, and healthcare workers must continue. Now, more than ever, all these efforts must be reinforced as the pandemic is still evolving.
Public health experts and researchers weigh in on the virus surge that is here and any surge that is to come:
“Even though respiratory viruses in the past did tend to do this — [have] different seasonal waves — (COVID-19) is behaving differently. This virus likes all weather, but what it particularly likes is jumping from one person to another when we come in close contact. So let's not give it that opportunity. The second wave idea ... we are in the first wave. It's going to be one big wave.”
- Margaret Harris (@DrMargaretH), World Health Organization spokesperson (Source: Yahoo News)
“A second surge could happen before fall, with human behavior playing a major part. It could be worse in the fall, because people infected with the coronavirus are capable of transmitting it to others even before they develop any symptoms themselves, and we are worried about what will happen when the virus circulates along with other respiratory viruses like influenza.”
- Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., Infectious Disease Specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine (Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine)
“‘Second wave’ isn’t a term that we would use [in epidemiology] at the current time, as the virus hasn’t gone away, it’s in our population, it has spread to 188 countries so far, and what we are seeing now is essentially localized spikes or a localized return of a large number of cases.”
- Linda Bauld (@LindaBauld), Professor, Public Health at the University of Edinburgh (Source: The Guardian)
“As we ease up on restrictions, there is always going to be a resurgence in cases. It’s not that it’s a new wave of the virus.” (Source: The Washington Post)
“The trends that we see across the U.S. don’t look like they’re peaking anytime soon. If these trends continue to go up, I think this wave could continue through the winter. I don’t think we can even start thinking about a second wave until we can say confidently that the first wave has ended, and that’s certainly not the case in most parts of this country.” (Source: NBC News)
- Dr. Loren Lipworth, Epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center
“We will have a harder time controlling coronavirus in the fall ... and we will all be very tired of social distancing and other tactics. The hard thing will be to keep enough of it to protect our ICUs and keep the number of cases from flaring up."
- Marc Lipsitch, DPhil, (@mlipsitch), Epidemiology Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics (Source: American Medical Association)
“If we are not able to put in place proper measures to provide greater protection for [the] most vulnerable groups, there is reason to believe we would see a significant order of casualties, possibly up to the range of what we saw in the first wave.”
- Dr. Brian White-Guay, Public Health and Family Medicine Specialist at Université de Montréal (Source: CBC)
“While we never truly reemerged from the first COVID-19 outbreak, we are likely to see a second wave of infections, which will force organizations that were starting to bring people back to physical offices to return to fully remote operations.”
- Massimiliano Albanese, Professor, Information Sciences and Technology at George Mason University's Volgenau School of Engineering (Source: CIO)
Second wave or not, COVID-19 needs to be brought under control, and cases have to fall substantially. The vaccine that is hoped for, to put an end to the virus's resurgence, is being researched with trials underway, but it is realistically months away. For now, the focus must be on effective and proven infection control measures.
The ongoing challenge is to ensure the surge is controlled so that it won’t overburden the already-battered healthcare systems. Tools that engage, enhance, and expedite can help meet that challenge. #BeLifeWIRED