You’ve been hearing a lot about a surge in COVID-19 cases, and you’ve probably heard at least a few mentions of a “second wave” of coronavirus. Right now, states like Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma are seeing dramatic spikes in COVID-19 cases. Because of them, the U.S. topped its record for most new cases of COVID-19 in a single day on Thursday with 40,943 cases. But this surge isn’t part of the dreaded second wave we’ve been warned about. It’s still part of the first. And that should cause you even more concern.
While some states like New York and New Jersey were hit hard originally, others like Texas and Arizona were able to stave off the disease with their stay-at-home orders. They had an initial incline that more or less plateaued during quarantine, flattening the curve. Until lockdown lifted. Once people started breaking social distancing guidelines — many about a month ago during Memorial Day — COVID-19 cases began to climb.
The recent increase is a continuation of the first wave. “Cases that occur after a lockdown aren’t typically considered a second wave, they’d be considered part of the first wave,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told MarketWatch. Case numbers must decline for four to eight weeks before a spike occurs for it to count as a second wave, according to MarketWatch. That hasn’t happened. Case reports were generally stable or increasing slightly before the recent rise in hot-spot states. Experts expect a second wave to arrive in the fall as the weather changes and people spend more time indoors, where it’s easier to transmit the coronavirus.
Twenty-nine states are currently seeing rises in COVID-19 cases, according to the New York Times. For some, such as Louisiana and Delaware, the increases are moderate so far. But most states with rising cases are facing rapid inclines. Texas, for example, has been breaking its record hospitalizations and case numbers for about two weeks straight.
Many people hoped that the summer would be a reprieve from the coronavirus. But hot-spot states are putting that hope to bed. Cases recorded now are bad enough on their own. But they could also make the next wave worse. If case numbers are high at the end of the summer, that’s more fodder for a second wave in the fall.
Governors in these hot-spot states aren’t taking nearly enough action to address these surges, experts warn. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott paused the state’s aggressive reopening plan and canceled elective surgeries in four of the state’s largest counties. But restaurants, shopping malls, and gyms remain open, according to the New York Times. This probably won’t be enough to stop COVID-19 patients from overwhelming hospitals. Some have already reported that they are near or over their ICU capacity. “Pausing reopening is not enough. We have got to try to put the horse back in the barn,” Ashish Jha, director of Harvard University’s Global Health Institute, told ABC. “We need to start to reverse the opening up.”
Texas isn’t alone in its weak response to the surge. Though the percentage of people in Arizona testing positive for COVID-19 is about triple the national average, the state has only paused its reopening. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he won’t delay reopening or make a statewide mask order, though the state has banned bars from letting customers drink alcohol. Other states with rising cases such as Oklahoma and Montana are continuing with their reopening plans.