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How you should prepare for a potential 'second wave' of the coronavirus, according to experts

Business Insider logoBusiness Insider 2020-05-08 amiller@businessinsider.com (Anna Medaris Miller)
a person and a dog walking on a sidewalk: Crystal Cox/Business Insider © Crystal Cox/Business Insider Crystal Cox/Business Insider
  • Some experts have forecasted a potential "second wave" of coronavirus cases and deaths in the fall or next winter.  
  • There's no way to know if a second wave will occur or what it will look like if it does, and some of that is out of our hands.
  • But remaining diligent about practices like physical distancing and hand-washing can help lessen the chances of future waves. 
  • Mental and practical preparations for a potential second wave are important too. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 information from the Canadian government please visit Canada.ca/COVID19

As North Americans begin to enjoy warmer weather, and, in some cities, even openings of restaurants and barber shops, there's an ever-so-slight lift in our collective spirits — maybe we really will get through the terrible thing known as the coronavirus pandemic. 

While we will one day be on the other side of it, we may first need to endure at least one other "wave" of cases and deaths, some public health experts have predicted. 

"In my mind, it's inevitable that we'll have a return of the virus … when it does, how we handle it will determine our fate," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said April 30.

European experts have delivered similar forecasts

Lothar Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, a public-health institute in Germany, said on May 5 that the virus will continue to be a threat until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, according to the Times of London newspaper.

"Therefore we know with great certainty that there will be a second wave," he said. "The majority of scientists are sure of this. One also assumes there will be a third wave."

While there's no way to know for sure if or when another wave will come, or what it could look like, it's important to be prepared. To do so, experts say to remain diligent with practices like handwashing and physical distancing, and to manage your expectations about when life will settle into a new normal. 

a close up of items on a table: Crystal Cox/Business Insider © Crystal Cox/Business Insider Crystal Cox/Business Insider

The likelihood of a second wave depends partially on health experts and researchers 

Whether or not we see a new wave, and how severe a potential one is, is largely out of lay Americans' hands. 

"The key to being prepared lies in the continuation of testing," Dr. Anthony Barile, the infectious disease medical director at Health First, in Brevard County Florida, told Business Insider. "This will allow us to know exactly how many people have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it, which will allow us to proactively and adequately prepare for the future." 

It also depends on when an effective, widely accessible vaccine is developed. Experts, including Fauci, have predicted that won't be until 2021, and one Wall Street biotech analyst said he thinks there's a 20% chance of a vaccine helping in 2021, and gave 2023 only a 50% chance.

Only time will tell, too, whether the novel coronavirus will behave like the flu, which peaks in winter and returns yearly, or if it will mirror what happened with the H1N1 pandemic, which struck in spring and came back in the fall and winter.

But there's a lot non-scientists can do to lower the likelihood of more, and severe, waves in the future. These are the same practices public health officials have long been preaching: wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, practice physical distancing, wear a mask in public, and stay home if you're sick. 

"The key is to continue to follow the standards set forth by the CDC to protect ourselves and our loved ones," Barile said, adding that potential waves could look different in different parts of the country, depending on density. "Stay on top of COVID-19 developments shared by local, state, and federal officials."

a person sitting at a table in a room: Joey Hadden/Business Insider © Joey Hadden/Business Insider Joey Hadden/Business Insider

It's important to mentally and practically prepare as well 

Being aware of the possibility of another wave can help you make — or continue to postpone making — decisions about your future. 

Maybe you don't want to book nonrefundable flights yet for a fall vacation. Perhaps you do want to make mental room for the possibility that "returning" to college will mean, at least at first, getting back online. Maybe you do want to talk to your boss about working remotely long-term, if for instance you think you'll need or want to move because city life will never be quite the same. 

Expecting the new normal to be farther away than you'd like means building up personal routines "for the long haul," Insider's global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson writes. "Buy a better desk chair so your back doesn't crap out. Figure out how to get exercise. Get therapy over your phones. Rent a goat for your next Zoom dinner party." 

Continue to stock up on necessary medications (or consider switching to mail delivery for good), keep up your hand-sanitizing routine, and make sure you're regularly (virtually or at a distance) checking in on loved ones, especially those who are vulnerable to the disease. 

"Being aware and proactive is not only the sensible thing to do," Barile said, "but it's empowering – not only for you and your loved ones, but our entire nation." 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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