CDC chief: Second wave could be worse

April 21 (Reuters) – A second wave of the coronavirus is expected to hit the United States next winter and could strike much harder than the first because it would likely arrive at the start of influenza season, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Tuesday.

“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” CDC Director Robert Redfield told the Washington Post in an interview.

As the current outbreak continues to taper off, as shown by a recent decline in hospitalization rates and other indicators, authorities need to prepare for a probable resurgence in the months ahead.

“We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he said, and the combination would put even greater strain on the nation’s healthcare system than the first outbreak.

The virus, which causes a highly contagious and potentially fatal respiratory illness dubbed COVID-19, emerged late last year in central China. The first known U.S. infection, a travel-related case, was diagnosed on Jan. 20 in Washington state near Seattle.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Reopening the U.S. economy is complicated by some troubling scientific questions about the new coronavirus that go beyond the logistics of whether enough tests are available.

In an ideal world, we’d get vaccinated and then get back to normal. But, despite unprecedented efforts, no vaccine will be ready any time soon.

“We’re all going to be wearing masks for a while,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, infectious diseases chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, predicted during a podcast with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Three big unknowns top the worry list:

WHO’S CONTAGIOUS?

“The really unknown in this, to be completely transparent,” is asymptomatic spread, said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.

From the beginning, authorities have rightly told people to stay home if they’re sick. But according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, somewhere between 25% and half of infected people might not show symptoms.

That means there’s no way to tell if you’re standing next to someone who’s contagious in the checkout line.

And even in people who eventually develop symptoms, it’s not clear exactly how soon after infection they can spread the virus. That’s one reason U.S. officials recently encouraged people to wear cloth masks in public, even as they try to keep 6 feet away from others.

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