Health Conditions

A second coronavirus wave isn’t imminent—the first one never ended

Dear readers—happy Thursday.

I saw a number of articles over the past few days suggesting that there’s a “second wave” in coronavirus cases in certain states like Florida and Texas. But the clear spike in at least nine states isn’t a second wave at all—it’s a continuation of the first one which still hasn’t been quelled.

The terminology of a “second wave” only makes sense if the first has subsided. That’s just the nature of waves. What’s going on right now is more akin to ebbs, flows, and ripples being driven by highly inconsistent reopening strategies.

Take a look at one map from my Fortune colleagues Erika Fry and Nicolas Rapp (keep in mind this is based on one set of consistent methodology and that the numbers may be different depending on exactly which dataset you’re using):

The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in places like New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, have declined sharply in recent weeks. But public health experts have largely attributed that to an aggressive strategy promoting mask use, social distancing, and restrictions on mass gatherings.

Those policies have not been consistently enforced in certain regions, including several of the states where a reopening process began sooner than in others. Governors of some of these states cite increased coronavirus testing as the reason for the spikes, but that doesn’t fully explain the discrepancies with other states.

There’s still a lot to learn about this virus. It’s possible that open air gatherings, with proper precautions, are less worrisome than being in enclosed spaces with intimate crowds.

But don’t call it a second wave. We’re still in the throes of the first one—more than two million Americans have confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 113,000 have died to date, per Johns Hopkins. A second wave would happen in the late fall if the current crisis has already abated (a big “if”).

And by the way, readers—please be sure to check out my writeup of our fascinating Brainstorm Health walkup call on the effects of coronavirus on the health care industry ahead of our virtual conference next month. More on that below.

Read on for the day’s news, and see you again next week.

Sy Mukherjee
[email protected]

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