As scientists rush to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the impending second wave of COVID-19 is coming — but could be here later than expected.
The second wave, which many said would arrive in the winter months, could arrive late and appear in spring, according to one scientist.
Texas A&M University-Texarkana Professor Ben Neuman said that the second wave of the coronavirus typically “peak” in spring, according to Yahoo! News.
Neuman, a visiting associate professor at the University of Reading, said that many health experts predicted the second wave to come in the winter months due to predictions on how the flu virus peaks when it gets cold. However, Neuman noted that the virus isn’t always as seasonal and predictable as the flu, the report said.
Experts have said that the second wave could be even worse than the first, which hit in March earlier this year, resulting in at least 190,000 deaths in the US and 898,000 deaths worldwide. The BBC reported that the UK could see around 120,000 new COVID-19 deaths due to the second wave this winter.
But doctors told ABC News that a second wave in the US could bring more cases, but not as many deaths due to a better understanding of the virus and treatment options, especially for those severely sick.
“In terms of absolute numbers, we are learning much more about how to treat patients with serious complications compared to at the start of the pandemic,” Dr. John Brownstein, a Harvard Medical School professor, told ABC News. “Now that we know more effective protocols and treatments, the number of deaths will likely go down.”
Neuman said that a winter full of quarantine and stay in-doors may curb COVID-19 infections, but things could become murky with flu season coming.
“The move indoors for the winter may not be likely to drive up COVID-19 numbers on its own,” Neuman said. “A cold winter can bring on its own mini-quarantine, as we stay home to avoid bad weather, and comes with a bit of natural PPE in the form of scarves and gloves.”
Since both COVID-19 and the flu carry similar symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, Neuman said that testing for the flu could lead to more negative COVID-19 tests, which could be misleading.
“A possible side-effect of flu and COVID-19 season is that since both diseases start off with similar symptoms, more people will be ill enough to seek COVID-19 testing,” Neuman said.
“Paradoxically, an influx of people with the flu seeking COVID-19 tests could potentially drive down the percentage of positive tests, which would then misleadingly suggest that COVID-19 was decreasing.
“That is one reason why percent positive rates should not be taken in isolation to monitor the pandemic.”
Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease physician at South Shore Health in Massachusetts, told ABC News that remaining outdoors reduces the chances of getting sick due to limiting opportunities of close proximity.
“Outdoors there is lower risk for transmission from the greater air movement. The odds of getting sick are lower when you are outside compared to confined spaces like elevators and living in close proximity,” said Wildes. “Being in crowded spaces, you are much more likely to spread the virus.”
But Neuman warned with places like restaurants and schools reopening, it could bring the virus home.
“Instead, look for changes in behavior that lead to mixing of people from different households, especially where masks would not be worn, as a potential source of COVID-19 – school reopenings, dinner parties, restaurants,” he said.