If you held out a glimmer of hope about life returning to normal this year, that hope may have been thoroughly extinguished this week by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield.
“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 on Tuesday. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time.”
President Trump later tried to claim that Redfield had been misquoted, but Redfield clarified that he was quoted accurately. He’s also far from the only person who believes that the United States is in for a bleak winter. Numerous public-health experts are concerned that COVID-19 might make a comeback this fall (assuming that total case numbers even drop to begin with). In combination with the normal, October-through-March flu season, the disease could strain hospital capacity even more than it did this spring, when flu season was petering out. “It’s going to be a very difficult fall and winter this year coming up,” says Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
Scientists don’t yet know if the coronavirus will fade away during the summer before making a resurgence in colder temperatures. Some other respiratory illnesses do this: During the 2009 swine-flu outbreak, cases surged in the spring, subsided over the summer, then returned with a vengeance in the autumn. But the new coronavirus strain’s behavior is still too mysterious to predict for certain. Experts expect the virus to circulate among humans for some time, but its particular ebbs and flows aren’t yet known.