There were some positive indicators during the second half of April that there has been some progress made in different locations throughout California and the rest of the United States regarding reducing the spread of COVID-19. While there has been some headway, at the same time the U.S. Centers for Disease Control made it clear that success in slowing the pace of COVID-19 infections is fragile. In addition, for a variety of reasons, a second COVID-19 wave is thought to be likely, according to officials at the CDC. With that said, there are some important strategies that need to be maintained or implemented to control the severity of a second COVID-19 wave. 

Curve Flattening and Reopening of Social and Commercial Activities in Some States

By the end of April, a growing number of locations across the United States (and around the world) were seeing a flattening and even a downward arc in the number of COVID-19 infections. This flattening and course change (in some locations) has largely been attributed to social distancing and associated strategies like stay at home directives. Some states started to initiate the process of “opening up” late in April and at the beginning of May. 

California elected to take a slower approach to “reopening the state” than is the case in a number of other states, including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Colorado. There has been a significant amount of debate over the propriety of reopening states that had not yet met the milestones for doing so established by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 

The trepidation that surrounds early (or premature, as some argue) social and commercial activities in some states stem from the fact that this pathway may result in a boomerang or nearly immediate second wave of coronavirus infection. Even if a more immediate COVID-19 second wave doesn’t occur following these early reopenings, officials at the CDC, National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration have made it clear that the likelihood of some type of second wave later in 2020 is highly possible and quite problematic. 

What Will Lead to Second Wave

Infectious disease specialists at the CDC, NIH, and FDA have highlighted some reasons why a second wave of COVID-19 is a real possibility:

  • Schools may reopen in the fall, which will expose wide swaths of the general public (students, teachers, their families, and so forth) to possible coronavirus infection
  • Warm weather may impair the spread of COVID-19, a factor that coupled with other reduction in cases will result in widespread reopening (which ultimately will leave people more exposed when cooler weather returns)
  • People return to spending more time indoors as weather turns cooler and then colder (and COVID-19 is a virus that readily spreads in more confined spaces)
  • People become relaxed and less vigilant about such tactics like wearing masks and social distancing
  • Businesses and other public settings become less stringent in their COVID-19 contamination prevention and remediation endeavors 
  • History underscores that in pandemics like the one at hand, a second wave nearly always occurs, and it oftentimes is worse than the first (like the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic)

Reasons Why Second COVID-19 in the Fall Is Particularly Problematic

Based on the factors presented a moment ago, a relatively strong likelihood exists that a second COVID-19 wave will hit the United States, including California, at precisely the time the flu season occurs. Flu season in the United States generally is said to run from October into May. The peak of the U.S. flu season typically is in February.

When COVID-19 accelerated in the U.S. in 2020, the apex of that year’s flu season had already passed. Many infectious disease experts make note this is not likely to be the case for the 2021 flu season which will begin at the end of 2020.

A key reason why a second COVID-19 wake very well may prove highly problematic is because it will commence at about the same time as flu season and crest flu season is at its own apex. There are two particularly significant health issues associated with these parallel disease trajectories:

First, there will be a cohort of people in the United States that will end up infected with COVID-19 and the seasonal flu virus. Despite a tremendous amount of misinformation, the flu and COVID-19 are not the same disease. The occurrence of one does not preclude infection with the other. 

Second, if a second wave of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu run essentially simultaneous courses, the demand on the healthcare system might be truly significant. Again, because the seasonal flu reached its apex before incidents of COVID-19 infections shot upwards, the healthcare system was not doubly taxed. 

Specific Tactics to Lessen the Impact or Prevent a COVID-19 Second Wave

Based on dangerous prospect of a COVID-19 second wave coinciding with flu season, there are some vital tactics that must be followed to lessen the impact of another major coronavirus outbreak or (ideally) to prevent a large resurgence in the autumn. 

A trio of tactics that have become something of a mantra needs to be at the heart of limiting the extent of a second wave:

  • Preserving basic social distancing strategies of keeping a distance of six feet when in public
  • Wearing cloth masks when in public settings
  • Vigorous handwashing with foaming soap for at least 20 seconds (the length of the Happy Birthday song – twice)

Because businesses, churches, schools, and other establishments are expected to be opening throughout the spring and into the summer, a proactive approach must be taken to prevent and promptly eradicate COVID-19 contamination. Indeed, as of the end of April, in some locales, certain non-essential businesses were returning to some level of operation. A proactive approach to preventing and promptly remediating COVID-19 contamination in public space will be a vital component of lessening or preventing a major resurgence or coronavirus second wave. 

In basic terms, there is a three-prong approach here as well:

  • Ongoing cleaning and sanitization throughout the time an establishment is open 
  • Daily deeper in-house cleaning and sanitization at the conclusion of the “workday”
  • Development and implementation of a comprehensive coronavirus contamination prevention and eradication plan through a partnership with an experienced, reputable COVID-19 cleaning company. 

There are associated actions that must be taken as well that include:

  • Staying abreast of reliable information associated with COVID-19 and coronavirus contamination (through reliable resources like the CDC)
  • Proper initial as well as ongoing training of employees on best COVID-19 safety practices
  • Taking advantage of the latest technology to monitor potentially infected workers, patrons, vendors, and others who desire to access the premises (ultimately taking appropriate advantage of reliable onsite quick-test equipment when it becomes more widely available)

The bottom line is that our work as individuals, businesses, churches, schools, and other locations and venues has only just begun. A concerted effort must be made in order to continue to reduce the rate of COVID-19 infection today and preventing a widespread second wave during the summer or in the fall.