25 Investigates: Will there be a second surge of the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts?

25 Investigates: Will there we a second surge of the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts?

BOSTON — It’s been more than six months since the coronavirus was first detected in Massachusetts. The global pandemic has disrupted school, work, travel, sports and even friendships.

Data from the Massachusetts Department of Health shows the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths has dropped significantly since it peaked last spring but the number of people with the virus has been steady or climbing for more than two months. More people are getting sick with COVID-19 than getting better.

Are we heading towards a second wave of infection? Here are the predictions from 3 experts in the field of infectious disease transmission:

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Dr. Julie Swann heads the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University. She served as an adviser to the CDC during its response to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.

“I would bet on a second wave but smaller than the first one. You can also see it from the 1918 pandemic (Spanish Flu), where you see these very different patterns city to city and many of them had second or third waves. I do think that Boston will see additional cases. But again, I don’t think it will be to the same level that it was in the spring.”

Dr. Erin S. Bromage is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. His popular blog posts about the Coronavirus have been shared by thousands.

“I think we’re going to see an increase in transmission when our weather turns, and we are forced inside. But the way this virus spreads is very dependent upon human nature.”

"It would take a failure of political leadership, ignoring the data and the advice of public health officials, for a second wave to happen in Massachusetts. If the political will to act on data changes, something that we have not seen to date, then the situation with infections could deteriorate during winter. "

Ali H. Mokdad, PhD, is a Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health at the University of Washington. He is behind one of the most influential coronavirus models in the world.

“I expect an increase in cases and mortality into the fall and winter. We’ve been on a steady, very slow increase since the first of July, maybe mid-June. And then we expect unfortunately with seasonality that peak will start going up in early November, it will start going much faster and go up even higher.”

All the experts agree human behavior is important in what happens in the months ahead.

They say masks, distancing, and hand washing remain crucial in slowing the spread of the virus.


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