Coronavirus Update: Second Spike in Deaths, Infections Could Occur in Summer

New data from the U.S. government predicts that the second wave of the coronavirus could hit in late June or early July, with another wave of deaths and hospitalizations, if isolation protocols are lifted. The numbers — published by The New York Times — show what might happen if shelter-in-place orders are lifted on May 30, as many are currently scheduled to do. The death toll could exceed 490,000 if nothing is done.

The new projections come straight from the U.S. government's departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, where experts attempted to figure out what the coronavirus pandemic will bring in the next few months. They note that about 95 percent of the United States is under some kind of stay-at-home order or other lockdown protocol right now, but that many are scheduled to end after 30 days. With that deadline fast approaching, it looks like there could be severe consequences — around half a million deaths, in one case. If stay-at-home orders are extended to May 30, the projection still shows about 200,000 deaths in the U.S.

The data puts a gradient of mitigation measures side-by-side with the number of deaths it might prevent, creating a haunting correlation between the two. For example, experts compared a situation with "steady state" mitigation efforts with a situation where governmental shelter-in-place orders are lifted, but the populous is still advised to stay at home as much as possible. The latter leads to a considerable rise in the death toll.

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Some of the ideas put forth included keeping schools closed until summer, continuing to promote social distancing and ensuring that about 25 percent of the country works from home. This follows contradictory messages from the White House press briefing on Thursday, where officials said that they hoped the economy could resume normal operations in May, while medical experts said that social distancing must continue to mitigate the death toll of the virus. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that his advisers had not seen the latest projections on the virus, though the data published by The Times was dated on the same day.

On Friday, Dr. Fauci of the White House coronavirus task force warned that "now is not the time to back off" on mitigation efforts. He also said that the economy was not likely to reopen all at once, but that things would need to "go forward in a gradual way." He resisted putting a firm timeline in place, saying that "the virus kind of decides whether or not it's going to be appropriate to open."