Director of CDC Warns Second Wave of Coronavirus Next Winter Could Be Worse Than the First

Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has cautioned that a second, deadlier wave of the coronavirus could hit the United States next winter. The news came just a day after the coronavirus death toll in the nation surpassed 40,000 and as a number of states announced plans to lift stay at home orders and reopen their economies.

"There's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through," Redfield told the Washington Post in report published Tuesday. "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 a flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time."

According to Redfield, having simultaneous outbreaks of the coronavirus and the flu would only further strain the healthcare system, which has already been overwhelmed in some areas of the country hardest hit by the pandemic. He added that federal and state officials will need to use the coming months to prepare for the potential second outbreak, and he recommended an increased push for Americans to get the flu vaccine, explaining doing so could minimize the number of people hospitalized with the flu.

Redfield also stressed the importance of maintaining social distancing guidelines. Addressing the number of protests that have taken place across the country, he said that they are "not helpful," adding that he and other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing measures "and the enormous impact that it's had on this outbreak in our nation."

Redfield also noted that to better prepare for a potential second wave of the virus, the nation needs to drastically scale up contact tracing, or the practice of identifying those who have come into contact with a person infected with the virus, as well as the ability to identify the infected.

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Asked about a potential second wave during Tuesday's daily briefing, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx acknowledged the possibility of a second wave. She also suggested that the country will be better prepared.

"We were very clear in the guidelines that we believe we can monitor, again, monitor communities at the community level by using the influenza-like illness," she said, according to CNN. "I don't know if it will be worse, I think this has been pretty bad. When you see what happened in New York, that was very bad. I believe that we'll have early warning signals both from our surveillance that we've been talking about in these vulnerable populations. We're going to continue that surveillance from now all the way through to be able to give us that early warning signal."