U.S. may face ‘substantial third wave’ of coronavirus cases, experts warn

A patient arrives at the Emergency entrance to Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 14, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Colder temperatures are arriving in the Northern Hemisphere, and an insidious rise in new coronavirus cases in the U.S. and Europe is underway.

For months, health officials have warned against this possibility, and as these trends begin to materialize, countries are weighing whether to impose stricter measures to contain the virus’ spread.

“Our worry has been that we would see a fall wave, that we’d see a big resurgence in the fall,” said Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the┬áJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that has really been something I think all of us in the public health community have been worried about for a while.”

In the U.S., coronavirus cases were growing by 5% or more in 38 states, as of Friday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that uses a weekly average to smooth out the reporting. The nation is averaging roughly 55,000 new coronavirus cases every day, a more than 16% increase compared with a week ago.

“It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public health measures, and again I emphasize without necessarily shutting down the country,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told Johns Hopkins University during a recorded Q&A on Thursday.

Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has warned the daily number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. remains dangerously high, especially as the forthcoming flu season threatens to complicate the nation’s response to the pandemic.

When the U.S. descended from its first peak in April, where cases were largely driven by New York and other states in the Northeast, the number of new coronavirus cases “got stuck” around 20,000 per day, Fauci said. Ideally, the U.S. would’ve reported less than 10,000 cases every day, he said.

Then cases resurged in America’s Sun Belt over the summer as states tried to reopen their economies. The number of daily new Covid-19 cases swelled to a high of nearly 70,000 cases a day before subsiding once again. However, new cases have since hovered between 40,000 to 50,000 cases a day.

“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” Fauci said. He added that the positivity rate, or the percentage of tests that are positive, is “going in the wrong direction” in more than 30 states.

“I’m pretty glum at the moment because it does look as though in the majority of states there’s an increasing number of cases,” Dr. William Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, said. “There’s a growing sense of coronavirus fatigue out there. People really want to get back to the old normal.”

Schaffner said he expects the U.S. to experience a “substantial third wave”

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