CDC chief says there could be second, possibly worse coronavirus outbreak this winter
“The aggression of the virus on our nation next winter may actually be even more difficult than the one we have just gone through,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in an article published Tuesday. “And when I said that to the others, they sort of put their heads back, they don’t understand what I mean.”
“We are going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” he added, predicting a double attack on the health care system.
Although there are injections to help prevent the flue and drugs to help treat it – unlike the new coronavirus, which still doesn’t have an approved treatment or vaccine – it’s still a deadly infection.
The flu season has been going on since September, and although flu activity is now considered low, the season has seen a high number of hospitalizations and infections, killing at least 168 children, according to the CDC. Last year, the flu killed at least 34,200 Americans, according to the CDC, and made an estimated 35.5 million people sick.
Having both the flu and the coronavirus in circulation could overwhelm hospitals and doctors’ offices already stretched in a bad flu season.
White House Coronavirus Task Group Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx was questioned at the press conference Tuesday about Redfield’s comments and how such a confluence of coronavirus and seasonal flu could affect plans to reopen the country.
“We have been very clear in the guidelines that we think we can monitor, again, monitoring communities at the community level using influenza-like illness,” she said, adding that they are working to strengthen screening capacities. and that it is important “to have tests in place.”
Pressed again to find out if she thinks a second wave could be worse, Birx said, “I don’t know if it will be worse, I think it was bad enough. When you see what happened to New York was very bad. I think we will have early warning signals from both of our surveillance that we talked about in these vulnerable populations. We will continue this surveillance from now on so that we can give this signal early warning. “
Redfield’s comments come as several governors seek to partially reopen the economies of their states by relaxing some restrictions to limit the spread of the virus – despite concerns over a further increase in coronavirus cases.
Asked earlier about the protests and the subsequent calls to open the states, Redfield said “it doesn’t help.”
While Trump unveiled directions last week to help states ease their restrictions on social distancing, Redfield called on state officials to spend the next few months preparing for the next phase by continuing to tout the social distancing and to intensify testing and contact tracing.
For the future, Redfield mentioned the need for a prevention campaign to highlight the importance of influenza vaccines to reduce hospitalizations for the flu. He said getting the flu shot “could allow your mother or grandmother to have a hospital bed that can get coronavirus.”
Betsy Klein, Paul LeBlanc and Scottie Andrew of CNN contributed to this report.