In an interview with the Washington Post this week, CDC Director Robert Redfield said that Americans should prepare for a second round of the coronavirus pandemic in the winter…and he warns that it could be worse than the one we’re enduring right now.
Speaking to the paper as several states begin putting plans into place for a partial reopening of the economy, Redfield said, “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will be even more difficult than the one we just went through.”
He continued: “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean. We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”
He said that such a confluence could lead to a devastating overwhelm of our nation’s healthcare capacity, leading to the kinds of hospital overflows that…well, that U.S. leaders predicted would happen with the first wave of the coronavirus.
We’re not throwing peanuts unnecessarily, by the way. Look, just today New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told Trump that the city has no further need for the Navy ship Comfort, which was intended to help the city deal with the crisis. How many victims, total, did the Comfort ever treat? Last we heard, it wasn’t even taking coronavirus patients, which was strange enough. And the hospitals didn’t have any overflow patients of other types, meaning that the ship basically just sat there in the harbor, doing nothing.
Were New York City’s social distancing efforts so successful that they were able to avoid an Italy-like disaster? Or what? What’s the answer? Why haven’t we seen the kinds of ICU overflows, ventilator shortages, or people-dying-in-parking-lots scenes that so many in the media predicted?
None of that is meant to downplay what we’ve seen so far from COVID-19. 45,000 deaths in, like, a month’s time is nothing to downplay. And maybe the shutdown worked. Maybe we really would be looking at overflowing hospitals and morgues if we’d just whistled our way through this thing, pretending as if there was nothing to worry about.
But between now and winter, we really need to figure that out. We need to sharpen our models. We need to determine exactly how this virus is spreading so we know what practices work to stop the spread and which ones only work to destroy the economy. We don’t need more panic, and we don’t need more “grim warnings.” We need sensible, coherent, scientific information.
Otherwise, by the time winter gets here, the coronavirus may be the least of our concerns.