LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Scientists say its not a matter of, "if" there will be a second coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., but when.
And with Southwest Florida numbers continuing to grow, healthcare professionals are bracing for that second round.
Dr. James Koopman, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan calls stay-at-home orders more reactive than proactive.
“We controlled the first wave with what I call a sledgehammer approach,” said Koopman.
But he says solid research can better prepare the U.S. for what he calls the inevitable second wave of COVID-19 as China’s experiencing now.
“We have to have good epidemiological studies, and we have to have good data. So, we know where the virus is going, what areas have been hit, what areas haven’t been hit,” he said.
He says he doesn’t see the next round of cases coming from abroad like other countries have reported, but says the U.S.’s half a million cases - exceeding any other country - are enough to re-emerge the virus in the fall.
“It is not going to go down to zero. It’s going to go down to some low level that can rekindle everything else,” he said.
Tom Smythe - Finance Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University says we’re likely already in a recession. He says getting people back to work will ease pressure on government funds, but it could backfire on the economy.
“There is a benefit to sort of waiting a little bit longer to make sure we don’t sort of jolt the consumer’s confidence,” he said.
That false confidence could come during that predicted second wave of the virus, causing consumers to hold back on spending when they hear about new cases emerging.
Healthcare workers like Isabel Francis support keeping things closed.
“Everybody in the healthcare profession is concerned about a second wave,” she said.
Francis is a registered nurse in Southwest Florida. She doesn’t work directly with COVID-19 patients but sews PPE gear like masks for doctors and nurses who do.
She says she hasn’t been uprooted, but knows nurses who are getting pulled from other departments to care for critical people in her friend’s department the ICU.
“I’ve never worked in an intensive care unit. There’s no way I could just walk in and help, replace her or take her job. That requires a significant amount of training,” she said.
Dr. Koopman says re-opening should be gradual. Analyzing places that show declining numbers first, and using that as a model to re-open other areas. He also recommends tracking who COVID-19 patients have come into contact with and possibly quarantining all those people.