We have not even gotten through the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and experts are worried about the second wave of the virus.
There could be two outcomes: the second wave could be worse than the first, with the people who did a great job of sheltering in place contracting the virus. Or many people are already infected with the virus without symptoms, so there is higher immunity.
Unfortunately, there is not a crystal ball where we can look into the future. There are many unknowns right now and that is what is making this virus so scary. If you had the virus, are you immune from getting it again? How long does immunity last? Does the weather affect the virus?
Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, says that until there is a vaccine, “it’s unfortunately not unlikely that we may see a second wave or even a third wave,”
3. Can You Get COVID-19 More Than Once?
The first question most people ask is, if you are infected with COVID-19 are you immune and for how long? If you have been infected with the mumps, you are immune for life. Some versions of the common cold, caused by other types of coronaviruses, see immunity lower after a year. Every virus is different.
With this being a novel coronavirus, there is no data available on the immunity of survivors. COVID-19 has some similarities to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and those viruses convey immunity.
Many people have contracted COVID-19 from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. Many people might have already had it asymptomatically and did not know because they had immunity to both viruses.
The percentage of the population in the United States that is immune is unknown at this time, because the United States does not have widespread testing. Experts expect that this is possibly months away. Even if immunity to this virus is not lifelong, the virus may have infected enough people to make it hard to find new people to infect.
Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, hopes that even before we get a vaccine “we’d be getting to herd immunity through natural immunity.”
Greg Poland, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, predicts that the second wave of the virus will hit the areas that were not infected the first time. The first outbreak has mostly affected the coasts of the county. He predicts that the second wave will be in the interior of the country, where there are a lot of people who have not been exposed to the virus.
2. Will COVID-19 Go Away This Summer?
The flu is more common in the winter because the virus survives longer in cold and dry weather. In the winter, people are more likely to remain indoors, in close contact with others. The flu typically comes around from October to May, with the most cases in October and November. If the novel coronavirus behaves like the flu, it will spread more in the southern hemisphere during its winter, and then again in the northern hemisphere for its winter.
Michael Mina, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard, states “We have no idea really whether this is going to bounce back the moment people start going back outdoors or if the warmer weather is actually going to help us out,”
The first wave of the virus is hitting hard because there is no immunity. It could eventually become a yearly occurrence, like influenza.
1. What We Do Matters
Experts say how we move forward will determine the severity of the next waves. If people continue washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks, mixed with more testing available, the next waves could be less severe.
As states begin to ease restrictions and stay at home orders, the United States will become a series of experiments, and experts will be watching closely.
There are many things that can be done, such as staggered school and work days, and more people working from home. The problem is we do not know how or if any of them will work.
COVID-19 spreads easily and has a long incubation period. It’s possible to go from a few cases to thousands in a few weeks. All the hard work we have done social distancing and being vigilant can be undone quickly.Related: Social Distancing Mistakes That Put You at Risk for Coronavirus