The director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, is warning that while we’re now reaching the apex of infections by the coronavirus, the outbreak could be even worse next winter.
Redfield told the Washington Post that we actually lucked out this year. If the virus had hit us a few weeks earlier, medical facilities and resources would also have been needed for other seasonal diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and bronchitis.
But there will be no escaping this problem next winter.
The coronavirus is both more contagious and more deadly than seasonal influenza, and a vaccine against it almost certainly won’t be available by the time flu season comes around.
While some clinical trials for coronavirus treatments are showing encouraging signs, the US is still likely 12 to 18 months away from developing a deployable vaccine.
Because of that, Redfield said, it will be more important than ever for people to get their flu shots to reduce their risk and help lessen the burden on the healthcare system. He told The Postthat more people getting vaccinated against the flu “may allow there to be a hospital bed available for your mother or grandmother that may get coronavirus.”
But Dr. Deborah Brix, who heads up the White House task force on the coronavirus, thinks we may be able to avoid the more serious effects of a second wave of virus infections during flu season.
A wave of coronavirus in flu season could put immense strain on the country’s health care system. However, Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, on Tuesday said she wasn’t sure that a second wave of coronavirus would be more serious than what the U.S. has already seen.
“I don’t know if it will be worse, I think this has been pretty bad,” Dr. Birx said at a White House press conference. “When you see what happened in New York, that was very bad….I believe that we’ll have early warning signals” in place to detect a second outbreak, Dr. Birx added.
Contact tracing may be seen by some as intrusive, but it’s an immensely helpful tool that, if done correctly, will save lives and keep the economy going even during another outbreak.
We might expect a lot of local “shelter in place” orders that will target a specific geographical area. Once a cluster of cases is discovered, the contact tracers go to work and in a relatively short period of time, can determine how serious it’s likely to be as well as narrowing down the location of a potential outbreak.
But contact tracing will only be effective if the testing regimen comes around. Right now, the tests give as many as one-third false-positive or false-negative results. That’s unacceptable and we need not only more accurate tests but tests that can deliver results in a matter of minutes, not hours. Those improvements are on the way and perhaps by next winter, will be in widespread use.
Redfield says the CDC is gearing up a contract tracing program with several hundred thousand workers.
To do that, Redfield told The Postthat the CDC was in preliminary talks to work with other federal agencies, including the Census Bureau, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps, to create an entire “alternative workforce” dedicated to comprehensive contact tracing, which would require hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide.
“These are all discussions that are going on to try to determine what is the optimal strategy to be used,” Redfield said.
I believe an effective vaccine could be available more quickly than anticipated. And researchers are testing dozens of drugs hoping to find a cure. The point being, by the time next winter rolls around, factors unforeseen and unanticipated by Redfield may make his warning obsolete.
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