Story at a glance

  • Schaffner warned that too many people are not practicing social distancing or wearing masks.
  • The health expert went on to say the chance of another lockdown is “off the table,” due to the economic and social effects prompted by the first lockdown.
  • Other health experts believe the U.S. is still dealing with the first round of outbreaks.

As coronavirus infections continue to rise in a number of states across the country some health experts are warning that the second wave of COVID-19 in the U.S. is already taking place. 

“I think the second wave has begun,” William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert and professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNBC Monday. 

“We are opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks and those are the things that will contribute to coronavirus spreading,” Schaffner said. 

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Weeks after lifting stay-at-home orders, some states are experiencing record numbers of cases and hospitalizations. South Carolina and Alabama both hit single-day records of new confirmed cases Sunday, while Texas is seeing record numbers of hospitalizations. Meanwhile, Oregon last week put a temporary pause on all further reopening efforts after a spike in single-day cases. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Sunday threatened to halt the reopening of Manhattan and the Hamptons over complaints people are flouting social distancing guidance. New York so far is not among the states currently seeing an increase in cases and hospitalizations. 


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Schaffner also warned that many people are continuing to gather in large groups and are not being cautious. 

“People are going to religious services on the weekends, and many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree, and that of course will lead to more spread of the COVID virus,” Schaffner said. 

The health expert went on to say the chance of another lockdown is “off the table,” due to the economic and social effects prompted by the first lockdown. He said instead, government, business and religious leaders should work together to promote the wearing of masks and social distancing. 

“If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” Schaffner told CNBC. “If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system.”

Schaffner’s claim about a second wave has been disputed by other health experts who say the U.S. has yet to close the book on the first wave. 


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Ian Lipkin, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, told CNBC for there to be a second wave the virus would need to retreat and reappear, or a new variant would have to emerge. 

“The recent increase in cases does not reflect either,” Lipkin told the outlet. 

Other health professionals say the first wave is likely to continue to drag on for some time. 

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“We really never quite finished the first wave,” Ashish Jah, a professor of global health at Harvard University, told NPR last week. “And it doesn’t look like we are going to anytime soon.” 

The U.S. leads the rest of the world in the number of coronavirus cases. More than 2 million cases have been recorded with more than 115,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 


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Published on Jun 15, 2020