In a recent US Senate hearing on the progress over the coronavirus, more than ten state governments have changed reopening plans. This is because the number of cases of coronavirus has increased dramatically since the past week in many states across the country. Does this rise in cases hint at the second wave of coronavirus in the US?
During a pandemic, there are different stages or ‘waves’ of an infection. A wave occurs when there is a rapid increase in the number of cases. The number of cases declines over time though not completely, which means that the wave has ended. After this happens, the efforts of the government as well as people’s behavior majorly determine whether a country will have a second wave.
A second wave occurs when there is another increase in new infections. During a widespread health crisis, most affected regions can have a second or even third wave. For instance, during the Spanish flu of 1918-19, several countries have multiple waves of the virus. Therefore the pandemic lasted for years and affected over four hundred million people around the globe.
Fortunately, the medical advancements of today can help in controlling the current health crisis much better in comparison with the Spanish flu pandemic. However, some countries, including the US, are experiencing a surge in new cases of coronavirus even after staying in a three months lockdown.
Do such increases hint to the second wave of coronavirus in the US or is the country still in the first wave? According to the assistant clinical professor of pharmacy and health systems sciences at Northeastern University, Brandon Dionne, this may be a very difficult question to answer.
The conventional definition of waves in a pandemic, which is commonly used by infectious disease experts, may not be useful in certain situations. Dionne explains that the infection does not rise in all states or regions at the same time, especially if it is a country as big as the US.
More specifically, he says “When you look at it nationally, it doesn’t look like a peak and then a decrease. It’s more of a peak and then a plateau. And that’s because of the different rates at which it’s hitting different states.”
Some states in the US, including New York and Massachusetts, had tremendous increases in coronavirus cases during March and April. Currently, the number of cases in these states is much lower and declining. If there is a rise in cases once again, it can be said that they are having a second wave of coronavirus.
In comparison, the majority of other US states did not have an increase during the early days of the pandemic. This may mean that the sudden increase in cases after reopening may simply mean the states are starting the first wave of coronavirus.
At the same time, some experts argue that the states already had the first wave with a low number of cases because of lockdowns. Right now, the cases are higher in the second wave of coronavirus because schools, offices, and businesses are no longer closed.
Dionne explains both arguments make valid points. However, more focus should be on controlling the number of new cases. For Dionne, it does not matter whether there is a second wave of coronavirus in the US or even a third. What is more important is that people are following preventive measures strictly as the pandemic would not be over without this essential step.