WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As coronavirus cases in the United States climb towards a third peak, experts are warning this latest jump in COVID-19 cases is not what many consider the “second wave” of cases expected over the winter months.
On Wednesday, new confirmed cases reached nearly 60,000 — a total the country hasn’t seen since early August. Additionally, we’re seeing cases rise in more than 40 states, according to a New York Times tracking tool.
So why is this latest peak in cases so concerning? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, says the “second wave” of cases hasn’t yet arrived.
“Given the fact that we have never got down to a good baseline, we are still in the first wave,” Fauci told CNN a couple weeks ago.
During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the number of cases plummeted before exploding during the colder months later in the year.
“Rather than say, ‘A second wave,’ why don’t we say, ‘Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?’” Fauci said.
Since the height of the coronavirus pandemic this past spring, experts have been warning about a second spike likely to hit the U.S. before the end of 2020. According to most experts, this could arrive as early as late October and hit its peak in December or Early 2021.
We saw the first wave of cases in mid-April when New York and surrounding states were hit particularly hard. New Orleans and other southern states also saw some of the country’s worst outbreaks.
Over the summer, cases peaked even higher than they did in April. This forced new restrictions and guidelines at the state level that ultimately helped slow the spread.
However, we’re now taking aim for a third peak. Currently, it’s the Midwest being hit hard with hospitals quickly filling up.
“We are starting from a much higher plateau than we were before the summer wave,” Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times. “It concerns me that we might see even more cases during the next peak than we did during the summer.”
The U.S. leads the world with 7.9 million coronavirus cases and nearly 217,000 confirmed deaths. Globally, there have been 38 million reported cases and 1.09 million confirmed deaths.
As the U.S. struggles, the situation is far worse in Europe.
On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said the exponential surge of coronavirus cases across the continent has warranted the restrictive measures being taken, calling them “absolutely necessary” to stop the pandemic.
Dr. Hans Kluge warned that even more drastic steps might be needed in such “unprecedented times.”
He called for countries and their citizens to be “uncompromising” in their attempts to control the virus and said most of the COVID-19 spread is happening in homes, indoor spaces and in communities not complying with protection measures.
“These measures are meant to keep us all ahead of the curve and to flatten its course,” Kluge said, while wearing a dark-green mask. “It is therefore up to us to accept them while they are still relatively easy to follow instead of following the path of severity.”
He said that the coronavirus is now the fifth leading cause of death in Europe and noted the region recently surpassed the threshold of reporting 8,000 deaths per day. Although Kluge said the higher figures could partly be attributed to higher testing rates, especially among younger people, he said that Europe had recorded its last new million cases in just 10 days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.