KEY POINTS

  • An infectious disease expert opined people should focus on the first wave of COVID-19 that is still spreading across the world
  • Dr. Osterholm said there might be just a continuous stream of infection wherever people let down their guard
  • According to him, the first wave might not end until "a vaccine is successfully distributed"

The talk of a second wave of COVID-19 has been doing the rounds for long. However, an infectious disease expert is of the opinion there might not be a second wave at all, but a continuous stream of infection whenever people let down their guard. 

“The first wave is complicated and confusing and not over — and may not end until a vaccine is successfully distributed,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Journal of the American Medical Association's editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner. He was speaking to Dr. Bauchner on his podcast called Conversations with Dr. Bauchner, where he discussed the summer rise in COVID-19 cases in the United States, prospects for school reopening, a "second wave" in the fall, and more.

“Don’t wait for the coming of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Focus on the first wave that is still with us,” said Dr. Osterholm.

He said it was hard to predict the future of the current pandemic since the present situation itself remains murky.

“I know less about this virus today then I did six weeks ago. The more we learn, the more humble we need to be about what it means,” he said during the interview.

Dr. Osterhol and his team of researchers have been studying the path of the novel coronavirus before it left China last December. At that time, he had proposed three scenarios of its evolution:

  1. It could be a slow and steady burn of regular courses of infections
  2. Hills and valleys -- where the infections are on and off
  3. Influenza pandemic model -- where the infection occurs in waves

Unfortunately, none of these turned out to be right. While the pandemic scenario was popular among several researchers, recent history seems to have dismissed it too.

He called SARS-CoV-2 a "leaky bucket virus".

“If there is a micro leak, it is going to get out. And it is going to continue transmitting. Or in the end, it will be like one river of virus flowing downstream,” Dr. Osterholm said. 

The United States has the highest death toll in the world from the new coronavirus The United States has the highest death toll in the world from the new coronavirus Photo: AFP / Mark Felix